Harare, July 28, 2014 – Former MISA-Zimbabwe chairperson Njabulo Ncube has cautioned the media against premature celebration of recent Constitutional Court rulings on criminal defamation as this could mislead the nation into believing the draconian law has been struck off the country’s statutes.
Presenting his 2014 annual report during the organisation’s Annual General Meeting held in Harare on 26 July 2014 before stepping down as chairperson Ncube said:
“Allow me … to caution against what I may describe as the premature celebration of the recent Constitutional Court rulings against criminal defamation and Section 31 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act which deals with the publication or communication of statements that undermine law enforcement agents.
“While the decline in the number of cases pertaining to the harassment and arrests of journalists is commendable, these laws still remain firmly entrenched in our statutes and can still be used to punish not just journalists alone, but citizens exercising their right to freedom of expression,” he said.
The rulings in question were made in terms of the old constitution and are still to be tested in the context of the new constitutional dispensation and have thus not been struck off the statutes.
While he commended the Minister of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services, Professor Jonathan Moyo’s condemnation of the continued application of criminal defamation, he lamented government’s seeming lethargy in speedily realigning the country’s media laws with the new constitution.
As a result, the country was still “polluted” by a litany of laws that pose serious hindrance to the guaranteed constitutional rights.
Ncube said existing laws such as AIPPA, Public Order and Security Act (POSA), Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, Broadcasting Services Act (BSA), Censorship and Entertainment Controls Act, Interception of Communications Act, Official Secrets Act and the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Act, among others, immediately stick out as some of the laws crying for wholesale repeal or amendment of some of their provisions.
The Information and Media Panel of Inquiry (IMPI), should heed these concerns and take them on board as part of their recommendations before it completes its work, he said.
“On the other hand, we implore the government to urgently expedite the ongoing process of aligning the country’s media laws with the constitution.
“It is only through an unambiguous and precise legislative framework that Zimbabweans can fully realise their constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of expression, privacy of their communication, access to information and media freedom.”
The media, he said, should also be seized with these issues and run with them, to ensure they remain on the agenda as they are critical to the entrenchment of constitutional democracy and the security of generations to come.
“ZiFM (commercial radio station) has excelled in that regard,” he said.
Meanwhile, ZLHR projects officer and journalist Kumbirai Mafunda took over the reins from Ncube,the deputy editor of Bulawayo based Southern Eye who did not seek re-election during the elective AGM which also equally saw the unopposed election of journalist Lifaqane Nare and accountant Martha Mashonganyika as Vice Chairperson and Treasurer, respectively.
Journalists Kelvin Jakachira and Columbus Mavhunga were elected as Committee Members into the five-member MISA-Zimbabwe National Governing Council.