Thursday, February 4, 2010

By the Media and Publications Officer

Media practitioners who took part in the Habakkuk Trust Think Tank on the constitution have underscored the need for the new constitution to guarantee media freedom.

The participants who were drawn from various media houses, media organisations and media associations in the city convened to discuss the Media and The Constitution.
Contributing during the Think Tank proceedings one of the participants indicated that while the constitution acknowledges freedom of expression, this is not sufficient. ‘The constitution should guarantee press freedom and protect journalists as they do their work,’ he said.

A media student present in the meeting pointed out that having constitutional provisions is one thing but implementation of those provisions is more important. ‘ We should be allowed to carry out investigative journalism without fear of victimization by political leaders” he argued.

There was a call for that the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings and Zimpapers operate as public and not state broadcasters. There was also an outcry for the opening of media space for example by freeing the airwaves so as to allow more media players as this is a basic component of any democratic society‘ .The government should support the opening up of space creating room for community, commercial and public broadcasting.

It was agreed that further advocacy should be done around this issue. Journalists also demanded an independent and dully constituted Media Commission that is fully empowered to deal with violation of ethics. This will ensure that the media adheres to ethics that are fundamental to human rights and development.

Some participants actually called for the abolition of the Ministry of Information and Publicity, as the ministry is rendered useless where there are effective, independent and functional media bodies. They concluded that the Ministry of Information and Publicity is an autocratic tool used by dictator states to control the free flow of information .The media practitioners were unanimous in pinpointing the need of a self regulating structure for journalists by journalists.

The Think Tank meetings continue next week in which the focus will be on Languages as well as Arts and Culture.

*Please note: names of participants have been deliberately withheld for security reasons.