Zim journalists operating in an unsafe environment – MAZ

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By Robert Tapfumaneyi

LOCAL journalists are operating in an unsafe environment, characterised by repressive legislation, political intolerance and an unsustainable business environment, the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ) has said.

Addressing journalist at Media Centre in Harare Thursday, ahead of World Press Freedom Day set for May 3rd, Zimbabwe National Editors Forum (ZINEF) coordinator Njabulo Ncube called on the government to expeditiously and genuinely reform the country’s media laws in a process that is transparent and inclusive.

“The net effect of this poor working environment has been unprofessional media conduct, corruption and shrinking space for critical and public service journalism,” said Ncube.

“While there have been quantitative improvements, particularly on the number of print, online publications and radio stations operating in the country, there is evident lack of diversity in terms of the content and ownership.”

Ncube said Zimbabwe’s sorry media situation has also been highlighted by international observers accredited to last year’s general elections.

“This sad state of affairs within the country’s media industry is reflected in all local, regional and global election observer mission reports, which highlight how the Zimbabwean media had glaring challenges in their reportage of the 2018 elections,” he said.

Ncube added: “The safety of journalists must be guaranteed and respect by both state and non-state actors.”

MAZ has over the years argued that, one critical step towards realising a free media in the country is to review the media laws and policy framework, which inhibit journalists and indeed citizens’ freedom.

“It is notable that the government has initiated the process of reviewing the Access to Information and Protection and Privacy Act (AIPPA) and the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA),” the ZINEF coordinator said.

“However, is it not enough for government to merely pay lip service on the urgency to review these laws and create an enabling environment for the media.”

The veteran journalist argued that government’s cosmetic changes to the Public Order and Security Act that is being re-incarnated as the Maintanenace of Peace Act do not inspire confidence for media practitioners.

MAZ is also called on the government to genuinely open up the airwaves and allow for diversity of ownership and opinion in the broadcasting sector adding that all state controlled media, should be transformed to public service media, in line with the Constitution and democratic practice.