Columbus Mabika, Harare Bureau
JOURNALISTS and citizens are now free to exchange information and participate in public discourse without any persecution or prosecution, a senior Government official has said.
In an interview yesterday ahead of World Press Freedom Day, Secretary for Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Mr Nick Mangwana said the Second Republic under President Mnangagwa has created a free environment for media practitioners to work.
“The Second Republic has seen the democratisation of the democratic space in Zimbabwe. A notable break from the old dispensation is that journalists and citizens are now free to exchange information and participate in public discourse without any persecution or prosecution. There is a free intercourse of ideas without any fear of recrimination,” he said.
Mr Mangwana said presently there is a rush by foreign media organisations to operate in Zimbabwe.
“Foreign Media Houses like the BBC are establishing bureaus in Zimbabwe, something that was anathema especially in the post-Land Reform period of the First Republic. Every month we clear dozens of foreign journalists to come and report freely on events in Zimbabwe,” he said.
Mr Mangwana said Government strives to ensure that rights of journalists are protected as guaranteed in the Constitution and called on journalist to abide by the law.
“It is pivotal for journalists to remember that they are not above the law. Their profession is not a shield against the natural course of justice. That said my ministry strives to ensure that rights of journalists are protected as guaranteed in the Constitution,” he said.
He said the Second Republic has made an open door policy where journalists are free to engage the Government whenever they require assistance to get any information.
“The new dispensation has introduced a new tradition where critical information such as Cabinet deliberations are made public timeously. My Ministry is the communication hub of Government and it is our institutional role to provide information to the media,”.
He welcomed the proposed Zimbabwe Media Commission, Data, Information Protection, Freedom of Information and the Broadcasting Services Act Amendment Bills saying it will promote freedom of the press in the country and make the industry a major employer.
“The new Bills will facilitate and enhance access to information, create the pluralisation of the media space. We need more players especially in broadcasting and make the industry a major employer,”
“Part of the new bills prescribe that foreigners should at most have a 20 percent share ownership in media organisations,”.
Mr Mangwana slammed some sections of the media in the country for fuelling political polarisation in Zimbabwe by perniciously taking sides with political actors in the country.
He said Government was committed to closing gaps that exist in journalists training as well as improving their welfare.
“It has been noted that journalism training in the country is largely theoretical and students struggle when they get to the newsrooms. There are a number of issues identified and our thrust is to close the identified gaps,”.
The World Press Freedom Day is held annually to provide a platform for multiple actors to exchange on current issues, threats and achievements concerning freedom of the press.
This year its running under the theme “The Role of Media in Elections and Democracy”.