MISA Zimbabwe’s 2020 annual report is now available. The report highlights the progress made, opportunities and challenges experienced by the organisation as it seeks to advocate and lobby for access to information, freedom of expression and media freedom.

Operational Context

The Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), together with the Public Order and Security Act, enacted in 2002, were among some of the most repressive laws used to suppress media freedom and free speech in Zimbabwe. It is in that regard that the enactment of the Freedom of Information Act in 2020, as part of the unbundling of AIPPA, was welcomed as one of the progressive steps taken by the government of Zimbabwe towards the alignment of the country’s laws with the Constitution. Scores and scores of journalists were arrested under AIPPA while newspapers such as The Daily News and The Tribune were closed under this law which at that time was used as the weapon of choice against dissenting voices and media workers. During the year under review, and as the country forged ahead with the media policy and law reform processes, another significant milestone was the licensing of the country’s first ever ‘privately owned’ television stations, and community radio stations.

Media Reforms – Cybersecurity and Data Protection Bill

MISA Zimbabwe convened capacity building and engagement meetings on the Cybersecurity and Data Protection Bill with policy makers, and members of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committees on Information, Media and Broadcasting Services and that of Information Communication Technology. A multistakeholder meeting was also convened on the same issue and was also attended by the Deputy Minister of Information, Communication Technology Postal and Courier Services, Honourable Dingimuzi Phuti, as well as other stakeholders from the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ), civil society, media and the telecommunications industry. For instance, Section 164 criminalises the sending of messages to any person, group or the public, with the intention to incite violence or damage to property. This was widely criticised by MISA Zimbabwe as an attempt to smuggle back criminal defamation which was struck off the statutes by the Constitutional Court. Among its other contentious provisions, is the proposed use of forensic tools such as the key stroke logger without being clear on how and under what circumstances the method would be applied, as well as the Bill’s failure to provide for judicial oversight or other accountability measures for monitoring and reviewing the potential abuse of the use of such intrusive technologies.

Campaign for Broadcasting Diversity: Free the Airwaves Campaign

The Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe on 17 October 2020 announced the awarding of the country’s first ever commercial television stations, effectively ending the state-controlled Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation’s 40-yearold monopoly as the only television station in Zimbabwe. These were awarded to, Acacia Media Limited; Channel Dzimbahwe; Fairtalk Communications; Jester Media; Rusununguko and ZTN. This comes in the wake of MISA Zimbabwe’s protracted and relentless Free the Airwaves Campaign, which also culminated in the licensing of the first ever national and provincial commercial radio stations, as the precursor to the new commercial television stations. While the decision to license more television stations is a welcome development, MISA Zimbabwe is worried at the lack of diversity in the granting of the TV licences. The new TV licence holders, either already hold print or broadcasting licences, or are linked to the government or the governing party.

Read the full report here (2MB PDF)

Source: MISA Zimbabwe