03 May STATEMENT BY THE CHAIRMAN OF THE ZIMBABWE MEDIA COMMISSION ON THE OCCASION OF THE WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY, 3 MAY 2010.
Today Zimbabwe joins the rest of the world community in commemorating World Press Freedom Day whose theme is; Freedom of Information, the Right to Know. It is 17 years since the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 3 May as World Press Freedom Day in 1993. This followed a recommendation adopted at the 26th Session of UNESCO’s General Conference in 1991. In the same year, 1991, the Windhoek Declaration was adopted by African journalists underlying the same principles of press freedom. The Declaration was later endorsed by UNESCO General Assembly.
Today, the Zimbabwe media fraternity joins their world counterparts in commemorating the fundamental principles of press freedom as enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The declaration states that the right to freedom of expression encompasses the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through various media.
Freedom of information should be taken as an integral part of freedom of expression as enshrined in our Constitution and the enabling legislation, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA). The Freedom of information principle, as provided in our laws, entails that government and other organisations have a duty to share or provide ready access to information they hold, to anyone who wants it, based on the right of the public to know. The objectiveness and quality of how the media reports on such information then become of more fundamental principle.
In our context, obstacles to the right to know manifest themselves in various ways which include lack of resources, inadequate infrastructure, deliberate obstruction and others. Many tend to view the government or the state as solely responsible for this obstruction. Obstructions to the right to know can be self-induced by the same very media houses through self-censorship, selective reporting and, most importantly, political alignments. The years behind us have seen our media being polarized to the extent that what they reported on did not mirror what was happening around us. When this happens, readers are left more confused as to what exactly is happening around them. We call upon our media to report objectively and stick to the cardinal principles of ethical reporting. Anything less than that will leave our readers and listeners being short-changed and the knowledge they are expected to extract from reading our newspapers being diluted, as each media house will tend to push their respective agendas.
It is not disputable that media houses are founded upon various philosophical, political, economic and ideological viewpoints. What society demands is objective, balanced and ethical reportage by the media. This way, we can say the media is there to educate, inform and entertain the various publics they claim to represent.
The World Press freedom Day is a day to celebrate the feats of journalists, challenges and opportunities that the media continue to face in the day to day execution of their duties. It is a day when journalists and the media fraternity should also take stock of how they have been performing during the previous year and take measure of their success in achieving what society expects from them.
The recently appointed Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) will strive to promote freedom of the press and ensure balance between competing societal interests and the demands of the fraternity. The ZMC calls upon all media services to espouse and enforce professional standards in their day to day operations. This will undoubtedly empower the readers and listeners by giving them quality information.
The Zimbabwe Media Commission espouses the principle of plurality. This the Commission will achieve through the registration of diverse media services to cater for different interests. The Commission will start registering new players in the industry in earnest following the gazetting of the fee during the past week.
While we crave for more and more freedom we should also take heed of the concerns of the communities which we serve. The press has power to influence and that power should come with a great measure of responsibility. We have one Zimbabwe, we should endeavor to promote its interests through responsible reporting. We should be tolerant of diverse viewpoints and be professional in discharging our duties.
The Zimbabwe Media Commission will be guided by such principles as fairness and integrity in discharging its duties and we expect the same from our media service providers.
We wish you a better year ahead of us.