Harare (New Ziana) – The government will continue fostering the growth of a diverse local media industry through refining and enacting favorable laws that govern the sector, a Cabinet Minister said on Wednesday.
This was said by Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa at a belated ceremony to commemorate World Press Freedom Day.
She said the Second Republic was on an unprecedented path of opening up the media sector and also ensuring that media practitioners conduct their work without hindrance.
Mutsvangwa said the commitment of the government has seen it pursue a number of media reforms over the past three years.
“In 2020, we repealed the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which had been widely criticized for stifling media spaces in the country. Government enacted the Freedom of Information Act in July 2020, setting a whole new paradigm for media operations in the country.
The new law provides citizens and media practitioners with the right to access information as espoused by our Supreme Law of the Land – the Constitution – through providing the legal frameworks and mechanisms for accessing information from public and private bodies. One such mechanism is the mandatory designation of information officers in all public and private entities that shall be responsible for handling information requests and disclosure of information to the public,” she said.
“We have also amended the Broadcasting Services Act and set rolling a new wave of opening up of the sector which has so far seen the licensing of new players in the broadcasting sector in the form of commercial television players, commercial radio and community radio stations. Just three weeks ago, ladies and gentlemen, we launched the US$125 million digital switchover programme that will see at least 12 free to air television stations coming on board.”
Mutsvangwa said on top of securing press freedom, government was also working to ensure that all parts of Zimbabwe received radio and TV signals.
“As we go forward, we are striving to make the media sector pluralistic and diverse so that every voice in this country will be heard and these voices collectively constitute a community of citizens that talk to each other; talk development and talk progress as we embrace a future full of opportunities,” she said.
She said theCOVID-19 pandemic had brought to the fore the importance of the media sector in the world.
She applauded the local media sector for reporting on issues around the pandemic to counter fake narratives that are pushed mainly on social media.
“As Government, we have taken a robust approach to fighting the pandemic so that our populace is safe and no lives are lost unnecessarily. The current vaccination programme – which also covered journalists as frontline workers – is meant to create a bulwark against the disease as we seek to achieve herd immunity. After achieving herd immunity, the economy can return to previous routines and become more predictable and our jobs secure once again.
“However, this is not as simple ladies and gentlemen, and we urge citizens to continuously engage in measures that are currently being pursued to fight the pandemic, with the media playing an important role in this,” she said.
The theme for this year’s World Press Freedom Day was “Information as a Public Good.”