Bongani Ndlovu, Chronicle Reporter
ZIMBABWE has made great strides in the past four years in media reform as Government is continually engaging stakeholders since the coming in of the Second Republic.
This was said by Deputy Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Kindness Paradza yesterday on the sidelines of World Press Freedom Day Regional Commemorations organised by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa).
Today is World Press Freedom Day and it’s running under the theme “Journalism under digital siege”.
The country’s main celebrations will be held in Bulawayo at the National University of Science and Technology campus.
Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Monica Mutsvangwa will be the guest of honour at the main celebrations.
African Union Head of the African Governance Architecture Ambassador Salah S Hammad, was the guest of honour, during the commemorations. The event was also the launch of the Press Freedom in Southern Africa Report. The Unesco Regional Director Dr Lidia Arthur Brito was in attendance.
The Deputy Minister of Information Communication Technology Postal and Courier Services Dingumuzi Phuti and chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee of Information Publicity and Broadcasting Services Sipho Mokone attended the event.
Journalists from Zimbabwe, Lesotho, the kingdom of eSwatini and Botswana came together to commemorate together reflecting on the theme and their media landscape in their respective countries.
Deputy Minister Paradza said Zimbabwe has made steady progress in the protection of journalists and repealing draconian media laws such as thet (Aippa).
“We no longer have serious cases where journalists are harassed, beaten up or killed in this country. What we have is a robust exchange of ideas with journalists.
Every now and then we have always had the Government involved in whatever journalists do as a collective, because this is where the President’s philosophy comes in Nyika inovakwa nevene vayo. We want the media to assist in the building of this country,” said Deputy Minister Paradza.
“There is a lot to celebrate in Zimbabwe because we have done away with Aippa which was a bad law. In its place we have put the Freedom of Information Act, the Zimbabwe Media Commission Act and also, we have this Bill coming in, the Zimbabwe Media Practitioners Bill.
We are also going to amend the Broadcasting Services Act. Not only that, we have given licences to six national private radio stations, 14 community radio stations and seven campus radio stations. We have a lot to celebrate.”
Deputy Minister Paradza urged journalists to practice Solutions journalism which is a rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems.
“There is always what we call solution journalism, we used to have developmental journalism, within that there was this confrontational journalism, which isn’t journalism. What we now need is solution journalism which will assist us in developing our country,” said Deputy Minister Paradza.
“We were sort of behind in the last 37 years, but we are catching up because of the New Dispensation. We were the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to have a radio station and also to have a television station, 1933 and 1960 respectively.
But over the years other countries in the region had overtaken us. In the last four years we have actually overtaken some of them in terms of opening up the media landscape. And also because of our media reforms right now, we are ahead.”
Deputy Minister Paradza said the Zimbabwe Media Practitioners Bill will make the profession robust and have a code of ethics.
“This Bill will strengthen the profession. Journalists are going to feel like they are journalists and they are the owners of the profession. We have had over the past years, infiltrators in our midst. So, this is what we are going to wipe out.
We are going to restore our ethics as journalists and also the code of conduct; how do we conduct ourselves as journalists.
Every Jack and Jill there was using their phones and those who can write on social media and claim to be journalists, but we are going to remove that and make sure that as a journalist one must have gone through some formal training in journalism. Whether they have a certificate, diploma or degree and so on,” said Deputy Minister Paradza.
In his remarks, the guest of honour, Ambassador Hammad said Press Freedom and the protection of journalists was important to attaining Vision 2063, Africa’s blueprint and master plan for transforming the continent into the global powerhouse of the future.
“The African Union continues to promote and develop different mechanisms for the promotion and protection of human rights, particularly the safety and protection of journalists on the continent.
We are working closely to create a special mechanism that will monitor the safety and protection of journalists in Africa,” said Ambassador Hammad.
He urged that more women and youth be journalists as they constitute the majority of the continent’s population.
The Unesco Regional Director, Dr Brito said the UN agency is committed to ensuring the safety of journalists in the region.
Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Permanent Secretary Nick Mangwana made a presentation on the State of Press Freedom and Access to Information in Zimbabwe.
He went through the different laws that have been repealed by Government such as Aippa and the strides in which the Second Republic has made in opening up the media space.
Mr Mangwana said the media in Zimbabwe was free to express its opinions.
Journalists from southern Africa such as Lesotho, Kingdom of eSwatini and Botswana presented the media landscape in their countries. — Follow on Twitter @bonganinkunzi