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Reform media laws, EU urges govt

EU delegation to Zimbabwe, Ambassador Phillipe Van Damne

EU delegation to Zimbabwe, Ambassador Phillipe Van Damne

THE European Union delegation in Zimbabwe has implored the new government to urgently reform media laws in order to create a conducive environment for free, fair and credible elections.

Speaking to guests at an end-of-year media dialogue, head of the EU delegation to Zimbabwe, Ambassador Phillipe Van Damne underscored the fact that the media and security-related laws still needed to be aligned with the Constitution as they remained repressive, limited freedom of expression and access to information.

“Concretely, following are among key texts presently still undermining the progressive Constitutional provisions of freedom of expression and the right of access to information: Public Order and Security Act, Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), Broadcasting Services Act, and sections of the Criminal Law Codification and the Interception of Communications Act,” he said.

“Under the new dispensation, there may be an opportunity that needs to be seized in light of the interview of the ephemeral Information Minister, now special adviser to the president, Chris Mutsvangwa,” he said. He pointed out that the media had also been constrained in their watchdog role by harsh economic conditions and general lack of professional skills and sometimes also by threats from politicians or other wealthy and well-connected individuals under investigation.

Van Damme said in order to enable the media to fully play its role of informing public debate and reinforcing scrutiny and accountability of electoral and democratic processes, these issues needed to be addressed. “Zimbabwe was one of the first countries to introduce legislation on access to information, but unfortunately, as you all know, AIPPA is better in prohibiting access to information than facilitating (it),” he added. Legislator, James Maridadi, who was one of the panelists at the media event, bemoaned the erosion of journalism standards in the country and urged journalists to seek re-training. “All journalists in the country have deviated from the basics of the practice and they now need to be retrained,” he said.