Zimbabwe Issues Proposals on Media, Information Access

9 March 2012

A draft constitution in Zimbabwe guarantees media freedom and access to information, and protects journalists and their sources of information.

“This is a vast improvement compared with the current constitution which does not explicitly provide for freedom of the media and access to information,” according to a statement by Misa-Zimbabwe.  Drafting the constitution could be completed soon, accordingto media reports, with approval possible later this year.

But the group added some caveats. Among other things,  it questioned the establishment of the Media Commission as  contradictory “to the spirit and letter of media freedom and access to information.”

The commission could take disciplinary action against journalists found to have breached the law or any code of conduct applicable to them.  “In a democracy, the duty of a media regulator is not to ‘discipline’ journalists or media houses but to secure an environment that promotes free media activity,” the group said.

The first constitutional draft published in The Herald on Feb. 12. Chapter 4 of the draft outlines the declaration of rights which includes freedom of expression and the media as stated below:

4.11 Freedom of Expression and Freedom of the media

1.       Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes –

a)       Freedom to seek receive and communicate ideas and other information regardless of frontiers;

b)       Freedom of artistic expression and scientific research and creativity; and

c)       Freedom of the press and other media communication

2.       Freedom of the press and other media of communication includes protection of the confidentiality of journalists’ sources of information

3.       The state shall not –

a)       Exercise control over or interfere with anyone engaged in broadcasting, the production or circulation of any publication or dissemination of information by any medium; or

b)       Penalise anyone for any opinion or view or content of any broadcast, publication or dissemination

4.       Broadcasting and other electronic media of communication have freedom to establishment, subject only to licensing procedures that –

a)       Are necessary to regulate airwaves and other forms of signal distribution; and

b)       Are independent of control by government or by political or commercial interests.

5.       All state media of communication shall –

a)       Be free to determine independently the editorial content of their broadcasts or other communication

b)       Be impartial; and

c)       Afford fair opportunity for presentation of divergent views and dissenting opinions

6.       Freedom of expression does not include-

a)       Incitement to violence; or

b)       Advocacy of hatred which is based on nationality, race, colour, tribe, birth, or place of birth, ethnic or social origin, language, class, religious belief, political or other opinion, custom, culture, sex, gender, marital status, age, disability or natural difference or condition, and which amounts to discrimination or hostility

4.12      Access to information

1.         Everyone, including the press and other media of communication, has the right to access to-

a)       Any information held by the state;  and

b)       Information held by anyone else in so far as that information is required for the exercise or protection of any person’s rights under this constitution or any other law.

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