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  • VMCZ World Press Freedom Day 2013 press statement
    Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe
    May 03, 2013

    Theme: Safe to Speak: Securing Freedom of Expression in All Media

    The Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) joins all Zimbabweans and the rest of the world in commemorating World Press Freedom Day on 03 May 2013. This year’s commemorations come at a time when Zimbabwe is anticipating the holding of harmonized elections and in the aftermath of a referendum that saw the approval of a new draft constitution for Zimbabwe.

    In light of these developments the VMCZ notes that the new constitution unfortunately retains statutory regulation of the media. It is also regrettable that the new constitution also continues with the undemocratic tradition of criminalizing the media as well as freedom of expression. This is particularly through sections 248 and 249 that establish the Zimbabwe Media Commission and section 86 which does not list freedom of expression as a right to which no limitations should apply.

    It is the firm persuasion of the VMCZ that such provisions in the draft constitution remain inimical to media freedom, freedom of expression and access to information. This is also in view of the fact that the country is to hold harmonized elections in which the media has a key role to play in promoting access to information and the maximum possible public accountability of contesting politicians and political parties.

    The VMCZ further notes that the continued retention of repressive media laws has the effect of hindering the professional work of journalists. Examples of these laws include the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), the Official Secrets Act (POSA), the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) and also the Postal And Telecommunications Act (PTA). These Acts of Parliament have over the last year led to the continued arrests and harassment of journalists in the course of doing their work. It is regrettable that the inclusive government is yet to repeal or at least democratize these pieces of legislation. Furthermore, the resorting to criminal defamation lawsuits by powerful individuals against the media has demonstrated an unfortunate culture of impunity against the media.

    In view of such an undemocratic legal and political framework over and around media regulation, the VMCZ remains of the conviction that media self-regulation provides a democratic, ethical, professional and publicly accountable alternative to statutory regulation. The VMCZ therefore remains committed to carrying out its mandate as prescribed by media stakeholders, media professionals, civil society organizations and members of the public. The VMCZ urges all of the political parties, civil society organizations and state institutions to respect the right of the media to work freely and without undue hindrance as the country gears up for harmonized elections scheduled for this year. Where any of the aforementioned players and stakeholders have a grievance against a media story, they are welcome to utilize the VMCZ Media Complaints Committee and the Media Code of Conduct to seek non-criminalised redress from the media.

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