By Nhau Mangirazi HARARE-The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) has challenged the Government to respect, protect and promote rights of media practitioners.
In a statement released on the Protection of the Right to Freedom of Expression and
Freedom on Friday, ZHRC called on Government to create enabling environment for media houses that are in compliance with the laws regulating their operations without interference and undue restraint
The statement comes a few days ahead of International Day for Universal Access to Information that is marked annually on 28 September.
ZHRC said Section 61(5) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe outlines the responsibilities of media practitioners. It states that freedom of expression and freedom of the media excludes incitement of violence, advocacy of hatred and hate speech, malicious injury to a person’s reputation or dignity, or unwarranted breach of a person’s right to privacy.
The statement added, ‘”This means that media practitioners are supposed to peacefully express their opinions and impart information which does not incite violence or propagate hatred. They are also supposed to ensure that they respect rights to dignity and privacy of other citizens including public officials.
ZHRC also called on Zimbabweans to exercise their rights responsibly and refrain from disseminating and sharing fake news which has the potential to cause fear,alarm and despondency.
The statement said, “Citizens should cherish and promote prevailing peace which is the envy of many”
There are international, regional and domestic human rights normative frameworks highlight the duty of the State in protecting the right to freedom of the media. Among these are Article 19 (1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that everyone has the right to hold opinions without interference. “Media practitioners are covered by this provision as they lawfully perform their duties as the Fourth Estate comprised of the executive, legislature and judiciary.
Article 61 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe resonates well with Articles 19 (2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights which enshrine the right to freedom of expression.
The instruments state that freedom of expression entails freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print , in the form of art, or through any other media of choice. The latest survey conducted by Media Institute of Southern Africa Transparency index gave Environmental Management Agency the “golden key” as one of open institution while Chitungwiza was rated as the most secretive body that did not respond to inquries made by the researchers
The survey assesses to what degree information is made obtainable to citizens upon request.
Regionally, these surveys were done in Botswana, Eswatini, Malawi, Namibia, Lesotho, Tanzania, Mozambique and Zambia.