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Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles
Safety of journalists and access to information a pre-requisite
in ensuring credible, free and fair elections in Zimbabwe
of Southern Africa (MISA)
July 23, 2013
The Media Institute
of Southern Africa (MISA) is greatly encouraged by the explicit
provisions in Zimbabwe’s new Constitution, which for the first
time in the country’s history, guarantee media freedom and
citizens’ right to access information. We believe that these
constitutional provisions offer immense opportunities for the entrenchment
of democracy and the enjoyment of fundamental rights in the country.
of the harmonized
elections, due July 31, 2013, MISA is particularly concerned
about the safety and security of journalists in Zimbabwe, lack of
access to information by citizens and abuse of public media resources.
All this is of concern to us because the necessary media legislative
reforms required to align the existing laws with the new Constitution
have not yet taken place. MISA has previously stated the urgency
of these reforms, noting that they are of significant importance
ahead of the poll.
to critically address and reform existing laws such as the Access
to Information and Privacy Protection Act (AIPPA), Public
Order and Security Act (POSA), Criminal
Law (Codification and Reform) Act, Broadcasting
Services Act (BSA), Zimbabwe Broadcasting Act, Censorship and
Entertainment Controls Act, Interception
of Communications Act and the Official
Secrets Act, is an unfortunate drawback that might have serious
repercussions on how the forthcoming elections are conducted.
We feel Zimbabwe
has missed an opportunity to make these laws conform with the new
Constitution and also, other regional and international instruments
that the country is signatory to. These instruments include the
Declaration on Human Rights, African
Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, Banjul Declaration on the
Principles of Freedom of Expression in Africa, Southern Africa Protocol
on Sport, Culture and Information and the African Charter on Broadcasting.
We are concerned
that in the absence of the said reforms, the SADC Guidelines and
Principles on the Conduct of Democratic Elections will not be fully
adhered to ahead of, during and immediately after the July 31 poll.
As a result, Zimbabweans will not fully enjoy increased media freedom,
their right to freedom of expression, assembly, association, and
access to information.
MISA is also
alarmed at the increase in media freedom violations in Zimbabwe
over the past two months, since an election date was announced.
In the first half of the year alone, Zimbabwe has already recorded
over half of the total media freedom violations recorded and reported
have been harassed, beaten up and prevented from executing their
duties by political actors, law-enforcement agencies and unknown
assailants. This has induced a climate of fear among journalists
and has given the indication that some areas in Zimbabwe may provide
a hostile environment for journalists covering the forthcoming elections.
that supporters of political parties should be educated that actions
which undermine media freedom constitute serious violation of journalists’
constitutional right to media freedom and citizens’ right
to freedom of expression and access to information.
We further urge
political leaders to guard against making inflammatory statements
that incite and excite their supporters to take the law into their
own hands thus tarnishing the images of their respective parties
and that of Zimbabwe.
MISA also calls
upon media houses to appraise journalists covering elections on
safety and security to reduce the significance of threats or attacks
against journalists and media workers.
In the same
breath, we encourage all journalists to strictly adhere to their
codes of ethics and to observe the highest standards in reporting
the elections by showing a commitment to professionalism, credibility
the efforts that have been made by the observer teams from the SADC
Parliamentary Forum (SADC-PF) and African Union in seeking the opinions
of various media stakeholders, including MISA-Zimbabwe,
ahead of the poll. We appreciate the efforts and will support further
engagements towards securing a safe environment for journalists
covering elections in Zimbabwe.
MISA thus demands
that the following minimum conditions be met before the July 31
elections in Zimbabwe:
- SADC should
insist that the Government of Zimbabwe guarantees that journalists
covering the election story are allowed to conduct their lawful
professional duties without hindrance as it is their constitutionally
guaranteed right to media freedom.
- The government
should order the police to firmly deal with these wanton acts
of lawlessness which pose great risk to the lives of journalists,
media workers as well as their families.
of political parties should educate their supporters that their
actions constitute serious violation of journalists’ constitutional
right to media freedom and citizens’ right to freedom of
expression and access to information.
leaders should guard against making inflammatory statements that
incite and excite their supporters to take the law into their
own hands (against journalists) thus tarnishing the images of
their respective parties and that of Zimbabwe.
- SADC should
insist that ZEC enforces the SADC Principles on the Conduct of
Democratic Elections where it pertains to political parties and
citizens’ equal and equitable access to the state media,
notably the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation.
- SADC should
insist that authorities comply with the new constitution as it
relates to securing the editorial independence and impartilaity
of the state media.
should be allowed to be circulated and freely distributed throughout
the country as they play a critical role in citizens’ right
to access information that will help them in making informed decisions
and choices in the elections.
the people of Zimbabwe a peaceful, free, fair and credible election.
and endorsed by:
Secretariat, Windhoek, Namibia
the Media Institute of Southern
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