Various media stakeholders have called on government to cease its systematic persecution of journalists while appealing against retrogressive laws enacted to curtail the operation of the media.
In its statement to mark the World Press Freedom day, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) urged citizens to reflect on the sacrifices made by journalists and other members of the press for the sake of press freedom across the world.
“A free press serves to provide the general populace with the information that will enable it to hold the government accountable for the exercise of public power. In the absence of such information, the electorate cannot ensure that authorities will uphold the fundamental democratic principle that public power should be exercised in the public interest. In addition, an independent press is required in order to effectively curb corruption and the abuse of office by government officials,” the lawyers group said.
ZLHR strongly denounced the systematic persecution of members of the press by authorities in Zimbabwe which they said poses a grave threat to the country’s democracy, the rule of law and human rights.
“The use of intimidation tactics, censorship, arrests and lengthy detentions on journalists is in direct contravention of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of the media which are enshrined in section 61 of the Constitution,”
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zimbabwe has also raised concern over claw-back provisions in some of the laws that are before, or, have since been passed by parliament.
“Any form of regulation of the Internet should be aimed at creating safe online spaces for the exercise and enjoyment of rights as opposed to the criminalization of online communication under the guise of dealing with internet abuse.
“Co-regulation of the media should not be an end in itself but should be the catalyst to fostering a free, diverse and pluralistic media as envisaged by the Windhoek Declaration,” reads the statement.
The World Press Freedom Day, annually commemorated on the 3rd of May not only serves as a reminder to Governments of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom but is also a day of reflection among media professionals on issues of press freedom and professional ethics.