By Farai Matiashe

MEDIA Institute of Southern Africa (Misa)-Zimbabwe Chapter has made repeated calls to government to comply with regional and continental instruments by fast-tracking media reform processes.

The call by Misa comes at a time the country joined the rest of the world in commemorating the World Press Freedom Day yesterday.

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The celebrations ran under the theme Regional and Continental Instruments Key to Democratic Media Reforms.

Addressing a breakfast meeting in Harare yesterday, Misa Zimbabwe vice-chairperson Rutendo Mawere said complying with the regional and continental instruments was essential in guaranteeing the fundamental human rights, including access to information and free expression.

“Compliance with these instruments, as derived and underpinned by the Africa Charter on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR), and in sync with the country’s Constitution, is critical to
the enactment and domestication of a democratic media, free expression and access to information laws,” she said.

“Zimbabwe is a State party to the ACHPR and should, therefore, adhere and be guided by Article 1 of the Charter. Article 1 mandates member states to recognise the rights, duties and freedoms enshrined therein by implementing legislative measures to give effect to them.”

Some of the regional and continental instruments to which President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government should comply include the Windhoek Declaration, Declaration on the principles of Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, Africa Charter on Broadcasting, African Platform on Access to Information, and African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights Model Law on Access to Information in Africa.

Mawere said these instruments should be read and applied in line with Zimbabwe’s Bill of Rights and fundamentally, with sections 57, 61 and 62 of the Constitution and other relevant sections that have a bearing on the exercise and enjoyment of free speech, right to privacy and access to information.

Section 62 of the Constitution guarantees access to information, but some Acts, such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, have some provisions which contradict with the Constitution, and they are yet to be aligned.

Mawere said compliance and adherence with regional and international instruments and the country’s own Constitution was, therefore, imperative.

Acting director in the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Paul Manhire, said government was aware of the debate between advocates for self-regulation and State regulation in the industry.

“It is our respectful opinion that we shall continue to work with critical stakeholders in the media industry for the betterment of this industry, and the enactment of media freedom in line with the Constitution,” he said.