Zimbabwe: 'Access to Information Critical'

29 September 2020

Ensuring access to information, observance of journalists' rights and their safety tops the priorities of the Second Republic, resulting in the formulation of various laws including the Freedom of Information Act, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa has said.

She said this while addressing media stakeholders during the commemoration of the International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI) organised by Media Institute of Southern Africa in Harare yesterday.

Minister Mutsvangwa said some of the measures being undertaken by Government to promote media freedom include the enactment of the Freedom of Information Act in July this year, which repealed the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA).

Said Minister Mutsvangwa: "It provides citizens and media practitioners with the right to access information, thereby promoting transparency and accountability while also guaranteeing access to information."

She said the revival of community radio stations is part of Government efforts to secure universal access of information for all citizens.

Through community radio stations, the previously marginalised communities were being given a voice and access to information in line with their constitutional rights.

Minister Mutsvangwa said her ministry teamed up with a leading corporate player to offer a 24/7 call centre to collect, disseminate and collate information on Covid-19 for the benefit all citizens.

"This access to public health information was as much a boon as it was invaluable to the populace. Courtesy of a history of warfare in the recent past, Zimbabweans are inherently prone to structure and organisation. All they need is quality and reliable information," she said.

The kind of partnership extended to institutions of higher learning, undertook to translate all Covid-19 IEC material into the country's local languages, including braille and sign language.

"Coupled with other interventions such as roadshows and mass media messages, citizens were able to access critical information on the virus and this contributed to the success of measures put in place to curb its spread," she said.

Minister Mutsvangwa said her door is always open for engagement.

"Gone are the days when journalists would have to scrounge around and look for tidbits on what would have been deliberated in Cabinet. In this new dispensation, such information that is pertinent to citizens is delivered timeously and publicly thus guaranteeing the constitutional right of access to information," she said.

"The Government of the Second Republic adopted the press brief as an innovative idea to announce the activities of the Cabinet Task Force on Covid-19 and it's weekly deliberations."

Minister Mutsvangwa said journalists rights remains guaranteed.

"My Ministry has developed a cordial working relationship with the country's media practitioners and always strives to ensure that the rights of journalists, who are a vital cog in information dissemination, are guaranteed," she said.

"It is my fervent hope that the good relationship continues and together we ensure that universal access to information is enjoyed by all citizens of Zimbabwe."

Minister Mutsvangwa said Government is keen to invest wide and deep in digital technologies.

"This is being pursued in tandem with total financial inclusion of the whole population. To this end, the Central Bank has put in place the regulatory framework to enable all digital money platforms to interface under its technical aegis," she said.

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