Media freedoms still restricted under new Mnangagwa govt – MISA director

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By Paidashe Mandivengerei

MEDIA Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)-Zimbabwe national director, Tabani Moyo says the country’s media environment under new President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s regime remained repressive as was the case during the time of former President Robert Mugabe.

During Mugabe’s 37 year reign, media freedoms were restricted with several cases of journalist assaults and arrests often reported.

Mugabe’s government also enacted the repressive Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) under which private newspapers were also banned.

In some of his rallies, Mugabe described some private newspapers as “rubbish papers” while accusing them of being too fixated with reporting on issues relating to his private family life.

However, Mnangagwa’s takeover as the country’s number one has been described as no different from that of Mugabe’s period on issues to do with the media.

“In our (MISA) monitoring nothing has changed in terms of the media except that there are statements which point to change yet in practice there is no change,” Moyo told in an exclusive interview.

“Laws which were in place all along such as the Access to Information Privacy and Protection Act (AIPPA), Broadcasting Service Act (BSA) are still intact.

“Journalists are still being assaulted and arrested.”

Mugabe’s dramatic ouster November 15, 2017 came with a chilling military warning for journalists to report “responsibly”.

What has followed are arrests and beatings on some journalists who have been targeted for taking images of police raids on vendors and touts.

Freelance journalist Conrad Gweru was in September this year attacked, arrested and is currently being tried for “disorderly conduct in a public place” after he was caught filming a police-kombi drivers war in central Harare.

His laptop and cellphone were also damaged in the process.

Freelance journalist Nyasha Mukapiko was assaulted by police November 22 while covering chaotic scenes that preceded the national budget presentation by Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube in parliament.

Observer mission reports on Zimbabwe’s July 30 elections have also incriminated government for alleged capture of the state media which continues to report positively about the ruling party while doing the opposite with Zanu PF rivals.

President Mnangagwa has set plans to amend the repressive AIPPA and the Public Order and Security Act (POSA).