Harare, September 20, 2013 – Zimbabwe’s once loathed Information, Media and Broadcasting Services ministry on Friday signaled its intention to bury the hatchet with journalists and other media stakeholders following years of soured relations.
Journalists had been apprehensive over the past few weeks after President Robert Mugabe re-appointed Zanu PF politburo member and former legislator for Tsholotsho North constituency Professor Jonathan Moyo to head the Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services. The apprehension stemmed from strong fears that during his tenure, Moyo had presided over the enactment of repressive media laws such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act while several journalists faced harassment, arrest and deportation from the country. Some newspapers and broadcasters among them, the Daily News and Radio VOP were bombed by some assailants who have not been apprehended up to now.
But, in a gesture which signaled its intention to mend the soured relations Moyo, his deputy Supa Mandiwanzira, permanent secretary George Charamba on Friday opened a new chapter and met several media stakeholders including local journalists, foreign correspondents, editors, publishers and media and lobby groups at the ministry’s Munhumutapa building in Harare.
During the interface which lasted almost five hours, Charamba expressed his ministry’s willingness to engage exiled radio broadcasters and promoters of community radio stations.
“We want to build an information ministry. For too long we have been calling each other names,” said Charamba, who sought an assurance that exiled broadcasters will be available for an engagement.
His pledge came after Radio VOP executive director John Masuku had enquired in the light of SADC’s recommendations to block exiled radio and television broadcasts into Zimbabwe.
Moyo pledged that his ministry will act on some of the issues of concern raised by the media stakeholders
“Our orientation should be constructive to build,….Our doors are wide open. We won’t lock them 24 hours. We will leave them open,” said Moyo whose ministry undertook to have constant engagement with media stakeholders.
During the meeting, media lobby groups grouped under the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe protested against repressive media legislation and called for the repeal of the laws while journalists also criticized the use of defamation laws.
Moyo said his ministry had prioritized engaging ZBC so as to change the state-run broadcasters’ “mindset and create new culture.”
Moyo also allayed fears that the new administration would soon re-introduce the Zimbabwe dollar which was dumped several years ago at the height of the country’s political and economic upheaval.
“This multi-currency regime is here with us into the future. The return of the Zimbabwe dollar is not on the cards. No one has said it is on the cards. At some time in the future it is desirable that it should return. It will return not to replace the multi-currency but to circulate together with the other currencies,” Moyo said.