Media practitioners believe the inclusive government has adopted a piecemeal approach to implementing promised sweeping reforms in accordance with Article 19 of the Global Political Agreement (GPA).
Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Zimbabwe national director, Nhlanhla Ngwenya acknowledged some positive developments had taken place since the inauguration of the coalition government over three years ago.
These include the registration of more than 30 publications including NewsDay and the controversial licensing of two commercial radio stations, Zimpapers Talk Radio and Supa Mandiwanzira’s ZI FM.
“But these developments should not be used to gloss over the infrastructure of media repression that continues to pause threats to the very sustainability of the newly licenced media and impede on citizens’ civil liberties,” he said.
Ngwenya said the same legal instruments that were used to erode the media space and citizens’ right to freedom of expression could still be used to silence new platforms of communication.
He said instead of holistically addressing issues affecting the media as per the instruction of government principals, the relevant ministry of media, information and publicity has either openly defied its superiors and defended the perpetuation of the status quo or superintended over the superficial reforms that have been implemented.
“Resultantly, an illegal Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe board has been allowed to controversially issue licences to companies viewed as Zanu PF allies at the expense of those perceived to be genuinely independent aspiring broadcasters,” he said.
A number of media practitioners have been arrested in the past months, with journalists from The Standard bearing the full brunt of an assault on media freedoms.
These include editor, Nevanji Madanhire and reporters, Nqaba Matshazi and Nqobani Ndlovu, who were last year arrested on criminal defamation charges.