Heal Zimbabwe statement on World Press Freedom Day

Heal Zimbabwe joins the rest of the world in commemorating World Press Freedom Day. The theme for this year is “Information as a Public Good”. The theme underscores the important role played by the press in dealing with information on a global scale, to effectively use and disseminate it to the world while empowering journalists.

World Press Freedom recognizes the sacrifices by journalists to ensure that they report news without fear or favour. The commemorations for this year are taking place at a time when the world is fighting the Covid-19 pandemic and journalists across the world are in the line of duty ensuring free flow of accurate information and telling stories without fear or favour. This demonstrates that the media is an important organ of any democratic society. It is the backbone of any democratic society as it makes citizens vigilant of numerous social, political and economic activities. Even in times of disasters, the media has continued to play its role of informing, entertaining and educating citizens on key issues.

For Zimbabwe, World Press Freedom day is taking place against a background where there is increase in human rights violations against journalists. More recently, several journalists were assaulted at Rotten Row court where Human Rights Defender, Makomborero Haruzivishe was appearing. Added to this, investigative journalist, Hopewell Chin’ono has been arrested several times for his investigative work as a journalist. Last week, the High Court quashed charges against Chin’ono of communicating false information and ruled that the law used by the police to arrest him no longer exist. Attacks on journalists have continued unabated besides the fact that Section 61 of the Constitution provides for freedom of expression and freedom of the media.

Heal Zimbabwe acknowledges the important role played by the media to build peace and social cohesion. During Zimbabwe’s past episodes of violence such as Gukurahundi, Murambatsvina and the 2008 violence, the media played the critical role of informing the world about the violence. At a time when the country is fighting against Covid-19 the media is beset by a magnitude of problems. At the centre of the problems is the reluctance by government to license more community radio stations whose role especially during the Covid 19 pandemic would have been greatly needed. Community radio stations will have played an important role of raising awareness on Covid 19 especially in remote districts.

On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, Heal Zimbabwe implores government to ensure that journalists are always protected from any form of victimization and allowed to conduct their duties freely. Added to this, government must further operationalize an Independent Complaints mechanism that will receive and investigate complaints from citizens about the misconduct on the part of members of the security services in the event that they violate fundamental human rights of journalists or citizens.

Source: Heal Zimbabwe

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