Herald Reporter

Access to information is a right provided for in the Constitution and Government is committed to ensuring its enjoyment by citizens.

This was said by Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa in Parliament yesterday during the National Assembly Question and Answer session.

“As Government, we want our citizens to have access to information as provided for by the Constitution,” she said.

Minister Mutsvangwa said outlying areas like Binga had no access to transmission from the national broadcaster, ZBC, which was the reason behind the establishment of community radio stations.

“The community radio stations are owned by the local communities and should enable them to tell their own stories and the deadline for applications for the licences is July 31,” she said.

She also said Government had established a national call centre that could be accessed free of charge by citizens on issues related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The call centre was established in partnership with service providers following the declaration of the pandemic as a national disaster.

Her remarks come a few days after the new Freedom of Information Bill became law after being gazetted following the approval of the final amended version from Parliament by President Mnangagwa.

The new Act, is a giant step forward in the reform agenda, and repeals the long-criticised Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and brings Zimbabwe’s information-related laws into conformity with the Declaration of Rights in the Constitution.

The initial draft went through a long examination and multi-party amendment process by Parliament, and especially through the relevant portfolio committee, which is chaired by an opposition MP.

Minister Mutsvangwa recently said the coming of the Act “marks a notable milestone in Government’s media legislative reform programme.

The promulgation of the Act by President Mnangagwa has repealed the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA).

Since assuming office in August 2018, he immediately prioritised the creation of a conducive national media environment through the repeal of AIPPA and the amendment of the Broadcasting Services Act.

“The enactment of the Freedom of Information Act is indeed a momentous occasion, not only for Government, but for the media fraternity and the citizens.

“AIPPA had aroused a lot of animosity over the years.”

The Act provides citizens and media practitioners with the right to access information as espoused by the Constitution through providing the legal frameworks and mechanisms for accessing information from public and private bodies.

One such mechanism is the mandatory designation of information officers in all public and private entities that shall be responsible for handling information requests and disclosure of information to the public.