MISA Bemoans Govt’s Reluctance To Re-align Media Laws

Harare, July 18, 2014 – The Media Institute of Southern Africa

(MISA-Zimbabwe) has bemoaned the government’s reluctance to realign

media laws to address the ongoing legislative confusion in the

country.

In a statement MISA Zimbabwe said it was worrying that a year had

passed since the adoption of a new governance charter and yet the

government had not shown urgency in aligning the country’s legislative

framework with the supreme charter save for official rhetoric laden

with expressions of intent and promises of delivery.

“Resultantly, laws that were crafted under the old constitutional

dispensation continue to be implemented corroding the democratic

principles and human rights safeguards contained in the new

constitution. These include explicit guarantees for media freedom,

promotion and protection of freedom of expression as well as access to

information,” MISA Zimbabwe said in a statement released this week.

Zimbabwe adopted a new Constitution in May last year with, which

expanded some civil and political rights such as freedom of the press,

access to information, and freedom to demonstrate and petition and

contains some socio-economic rights.

While MISA-Zimbabwe said it noted with cautious optimism the work

being done by the Information and Media Panel of Inquiry (IMPI), the

recent Constitutional Court ruling on criminal defamation as well as

repeated pronouncements by Media, Information and Broadcasting

Services Minister Jonathan Moyo, underlining the need for greater

media freedom, the old legislative framework remained in place posing

threats to the enjoyment of the very same rights the new constitution

seeks to promote and protect.

“This legislative disjuncture has been underscored by the arrests and

harassment of at least four journalists this year alone under the

country’s harsh media laws. These include the arrest of Daily News

Editor Stanley Gama and reporter Fungai Kwaramba under criminal

defamation laws, the conviction of provincial community newspaper

publisher James Muonwa under the Access to Information and Protection

of Privacy in April, the raiding of community radio initiatives, Radio

Dialogue and Radio Kwelaz in April and June respectively, under

suspicions they were in violation of the Broadcasting Services Act.

In addition, law enforcement agents have used old laws to bar marches

and gatherings by media practitioners, civil society organisations and

members of the public. Several citizens have also fallen foul of

existing laws while exercising their right to freedom of expression

through online platforms. The old media regulatory framework continues

to be used to license aspiring media owners, including private

broadcasters.

Meanwhile, MISA Zimbabwe will next week hold elections to choose a new

national governing body following the expiry of the tenure of the

current Njabulo Ncube chaired board.