Cognisant of the need not to criminalise the work of journalists, ZINEF distances itself from the spirited and sustained move to launch a statutory media body by the government using the repressive Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) to police the work of journalists.
ZINEF subscribes to self regulation and is totally against media practitioners being harassed or intimidated by such bodies as the Media Council which is an off shoot of the Zimbabwe Media Commission. ZINEF is cognizant of the history of statutory regulation in Zimbabwe that saw newspapers being shut down and journalists being hounded into exile. The same body was used to create an iron curtain around Zimbabwe through banning foreign journalists from covering Zimbabwe. The launched Media Council is a return to the dark days of media repression. ZINEF will be advocating for a removal of this threat to media freedoms.
In this position, ZINEF is guided by Article 9 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa by the African Commission on Human and People's Rights passed in 2002 which states that effective self regulation is the best system for promoting high standards in the media. The launch of the ZMC's Media Council is, however, an addition to the state's arsenal to control the media. ZINEF acknowledges the need to adhere to media ethics by journalists, but does not agree that the state, which is not only a major player in the media though its ownership of ZBC and Zimpapers is best placed to police other media groups.
It is also important to note that the Zimbabwe state, which is a major source of news and equally a recipient of both good and bad publicity cannot itself decide what journalists should write and not write or how.
Having chosen public office voluntarily those in power must be prepared for public scrutiny and not to seek cover under the ZMC's Media Council.
ZINEF is equally aware that such bodies were launched to target the independent media as in the past. In this regard we will not be surprised by the actions of the ZMC's Media Council in targeting independent media and journalists. This is the reason why ZMC and its council exist, to control the operations of the independent media. This is a hallmark of a political leadership lacking confidence in-itself and hiding behind repressive state institutions.
ZINEF argues that Zimbabwe needs a free media operational environment now than ever so in this uncertain political, social and economic environment. The ZMC launched Media council is set up within a legal framework that seeks and pursues vindictiveness and punishing the media.
Journalists are not above the law, but arresting and banning journalists is an in attack on press freedom. The ZMC Media Council is not only targeting the media but ultimately the capacity of the people of Zimbabwe to speak. For without a free media and journalists operating freely, then the rest of society is gagged.
ZINEF will continue supporting activities of the Voluntary Media Council and such initiatives as the AMH public Ombudsman in their efforts to entrench ethical reporting as well as responsible and responsive relationship with citizens. ZINEF calls upon the Unity government to review AIPPA and do away with censorship laws and bodies.
Brian Mangwende Chairperson - Zimbabwe National Editors' Forum