The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has urged government to make a commitment towards respecting, protecting and promoting press freedom in the county.
In a statement to mark the international day of democracy, ZLHR expressed concern over government’s failure to create an enabling environment for journalists to freely operate in the country while calling for a pluralistic press ahead of the 2023 general elections.
“Zimbabwe is indeed, experiencing a backsliding of democracy and the concerns on press freedom and civic space are a lived reality, hence the need for a pluralistic press in Zimbabwe can never be understated, especially as the country moves towards yet another election,” reads the statement.
“There are some journalists that have been arbitrarily arrested, prosecuted, assaulted and threatened by state and non-state actors for doing their legitimate work, for some, the persecution through prosecution is ongoing, and continues unabated,” further reads the statement.
ZLHR also urged government to abandon the Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill, (2021) and adopt legislation conducive to a less restrictive and more enabling operating environment for civil society organisations.
“Acknowledge the contributions, importance and rights of journalists and other media practitioners in a constitutional democracy through ensuring that their fundamental rights are protected in a manner that is consistent with the Constitution.
“Journalists and media practitioners play a critical role in sustaining a participatory democracy by disseminating critical and much needed information, making it possible for the ordinary person to hold those in power accountable,” noted ZLHR.
(ZLHR) also saluted courageous journalists and media practitioners that have been working tirelessly to facilitate freedom of expression.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition also bemoaned what they termed erosion of democracy as characterized by government clampdown on private media.
“As the world commemorates this important day, Crisis Coalition notes with concern the erosion of democracy in Zimbabwe which has been characterised by a number of factors including clampdown on the private media. It is unfortunate that in this modern era, Zimbabwe continues to witness cases of arrests, harassment and intimidation of journalists by the State,” CiZC said.
The organisation accused the ruling government of capturing the public media which they said now serves as a propaganda tool of the regime.
“Muzzling of the media is typical of authoritarian regimes where freedom of the press is curtailed. The private media is targeted because of its role in shining light on excesses of the state, with the government eager to conceal its authoritarian tendencies and painting a false picture of democratic rule. This has been aided by a total capture of the public media infrastructure which now serves as a propaganda tool for the incumbent government,” added CiZC.
This year’s International Democracy Day was being commemorated under the theme, ‘Protecting press freedom for democracy.’