12 November 2015 / By New Zimbabwe
OPPOSITION MDC-T legislator, Nelson Chamisa, has described as “deplorable and unpleasant” the press crackdown by government which has seen the arrest of journalists from both the private and public media.
In a statement this week, Chamisa, also an advocate in Harare, said the State was “effectively criminalising journalism in the country through a sustained crackdown on the media”.
“We have noted disturbing trends with utmost concern, particularly the actions of the state which in essence is the criminalisation of journalism as a profession,” said Chamisa.
“The state seeks to abuse section 31 of the criminal law codification and reform act to criminalise the press practitioners in their line of duty.”
Chamisa also hit out at government’s “legendary dilatoriness and lethargy” on aligning “legislation and governance practice” with the new constitution.
Journalists from the government-owned Sunday Mail were recently arrested for allegedly publishing a false story. They have since been bailed.
The arrests came after President Robert Mugabe threatened tighter media regulation, expressing concern over coverage of divisions in the ruling Zanu PF party.
Mugabe’s spokesman, George Charamba weighed in, vowing a “legal hammer” to curb what he described as “errant behaviour” in the media.
Chamisa said there was now a “deplorable and unpleasant slide back into the pre-inclusive era political tinderbox”.
“We are witnessing the negating of the GPA era progressive press and media regime in Zimbabwe,” he said.
“The tarnishing and negative effect on the national image of the country with a boomerang impact on investment and tourism prospects.”
He cited the retrenchment of about five hundred workers at state broadcaster ZBC, regular changes of editors at the government-owned Zimpapers group and the closure of privately owned newspapers.
There was also increased “vulnerability and absence of job security of media practitioners resulting in eclectic termination of contracts of employment”.
The government should commit to “upholding and respecting of the constitution on fundamental media and press freedom rights in sections 61, 62 and 64 of the constitution”, he said.
The findings of the government-sponsored IMPI process should also be implemented as well as the alignment of “all media-related legislation to the constitution”.
“With only three years from another election, we call upon the media to zoom in on electoral reforms that will pave way for a credible, free and fair plebiscite in Zimbabwe,” said Chamisa.
“(We) should institute accountable and transparent processes in the licensing of independent radio and TV stations, desisting from awarding government agencies and ministers ‘independent’ radio stations.
“(The State should ensure) genuine media pluralism and diversity by awarding licenses and allowing the entry of genuine independent radio, TV stations and channels in Zimbabwe.”