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Zimbabwe needs genuine media freedom

Zimbabwe needs genuine media freedom

By
Published: 14 January 2016

ZIMBABWE – Indeed,every person has the right to freedom of expression,which includes :

  • freedom to seek,receive and communicate ideas and other information;
  • freedom of artistic expression and scientific research and creativity and
  • academic freedom

The MDC welcomes the announcement by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ), that twelve (12) digital television channels will soon be launched in Zimbabwe. All these channels will be on the digital platform as the country moves away from the old, unreliable and antiquated analogue form of television transmission. As a social democratic political party that firmly and fervently advocates for freedom of the media,the MDC is, however, very concerned that of the twelve (12) digital television channels to be launched in the country within the next few weeks, six (6) channels have already been taken up by the bankrupt and poorly managed Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC).

The remaining six (6) channels will be taken up by private operators. It is frightening and indeed,very depressing news to learn that ZBC,a public broadcaster that has, over the years, hopelessly and dismally failed to operate as a genuine and non-partisan national broadcaster, has already been allocated half of the twelve(12) additional channels without going to an open public tender.

We strongly suspect that the Zanu PF regime is already playing its usual games of ensuring that the electronic media is rigidly and tightly controlled and monitored to ensure that only the views  and policies of the disintegrating Zanu PF party dominate the local airwaves.

The world over, dictatorial regimes abhor genuine media freedom. The Zanu PF regime is a classic example of a dictatorship. Everything about this regime revolves around one man and one man only and this is none other than the nonagenarian, Robert Gabriel Mugabe. As MDC, we can bet our bottom dollar that the Zanu PF regime will never,ever agree to situation whereby there is genuine media freedom in Zimbabwe.

Only a few days ago,the Zanu PF Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services, Christopher Mushowe, was in the news ominously warning local journalists not to report on so-called sensitive national security issues. Mushowe should be advised,in no uncertain terms,that Zimbabwe is living in the 21st century which is essentially the digital age.

Gone are the days when governments could rigidly control and manipulate the media in an endeavour to suppress reportage of corruption and other acts of misdeed and impropriety in high public offices; including the security services. In this modern age, there is a phenomenon that is known as citizen journalism.

Almost every other Zimbabwean has access to a smart mobile phone handset and as such,it is virtually impossible to rigidly control and regiment the flow of news; particularly on the ever popular social media platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram etc. In this respect,therefore, Mushowe should immediately exit his misguided comfort zone and appreciate that every Zimbabwean can now operate as a citizen journalist.

If the Zanu PF regime has got nothing to hide, why are they so paranoid when it comes to their iron-fisted hold on and control of the electronic media? The regime knows that the electronic media, particularly radio,is a powerful tool of mass communication. This is the main reason why the crumbling Zanu PF regime is determined to maintain its fascist control over the electronic media.

In fact,the MDC is convinced that the six (6) digital television licences that are now up for grabs by private players will, somehow, be granted to companies that are controlled by or in some way,linked to Zanu PF functionaries and some other such regime apologists.

The people of Zimbabwe deserve to be allowed to fully and genuinely exercise their fundamental right of freedom of expression. The MDC will be closely monitoring  the process of how the six (6) private digital television licences are going to be awarded and if need be, we shall resort to taking appropriate court action to ensure that the Zanu PF regime doesn’t abuse the allocation of these licences in order to push its own nefarious and tyrannical agenda.