The raft of media reforms that the Second Republic is undertaking have been President Mnangagwa’s long-held dream that is now coming to fruition.
The Deputy Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Kindness Paradza, revealed this yesterday during the national World Press Freedom Day commemorations held at the National University of Science and Technology (Nust) in Bulawayo.
He said in 1994 when the President was still the country’s Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, he spoke on the need to embrace media reforms.
This year’s theme for the World Press Freedom Day, which is commemorated on May 3 annually, is: “Journalism under Surveillance.”
Representatives of the Zimbabwe Media Commission and the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Information, Media and Broadcasting Services chaired by Sipho Mokone, as well as Unesco regional advisor for Communication and Information, Southern Africa, Mr Al Amin Yusuph and Nust Vice Chancellor Professor Mqhele Dlodlo were also part of the dignitaries along with Media and Journalism students from Nust and the Midlands State University (MSU).
Deputy Minister Paradza delivered a lecture titled: “Towards a sustainable media environment in Zimbabwe.”
The Deputy Minister said President Mnangagwa called for media reforms years ago and he has delivered on his wishes in the Second Republic.
“President Mnangagwa in 1994 when he was the Minister of Justice proposed media reforms then. He has stayed true to his word that he had made all those years ago,” said Deputy Minister Paradza.
“I once said in 2003, I was expelled from Zanu-PF. I had said let’s allow the industry to grow by allowing investment even from foreigners. And I have been vindicated and now we are going to amend the Broadcasting Services Act to allow foreigners to hold 40 percent equity in our local industry.”
He said without media reforms, the industry will collapse.
“That’s the way of sustaining our industry, because if we don’t do that, most of the players in the industry will collapse. Those that aren’t receiving grants are going to collapse. Even the advertising revenue is also shrinking,” said Deputy Paradza.
He said the repeal of draconian laws such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) showed Government’s commitment to the viability of the industry.
“We have come to Nust here in Bulawayo to celebrate World Press Freedom Day on the back of the giant strides that my ministry has made in the past two or three years in reforming the media sector.
“The major talking point was the repeal of this draconian Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, AIPPA in 2020, through the enactment of its successor the Freedom of Information Act,” said Deputy Minister Paradza.
He said AIPPA was instrumental in stagnating the growth of the media industry and it closed newspapers such as his publication, The Tribune, in 2003.
“AIPPA is gone, it was a bad law, it closed my newspaper. And a lot of journalists suffered because of AIPPA. The Daily News was closed and a lot of journalists suffered. Some are now in the diaspora and others died because they had nowhere to work, some died as paupers. Even those who were working for me also faced a similar fate,” said Deputy Minister Paradza.
He said the Freedom of Information Act provides for the constitutional right of freedom of expression, freedom of the media, the right to access information and the Zimbabwe Media Commission Act, and both have a major role to play in upholding Press freedom.
Deputy Minister Paradza said to open up the industry, Government has licensed 14 community radio stations, with half in Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South, seven campus radio stations and six commercial television stations.
After the lecture, students said they appreciated that they could interact with the Deputy Minister.
Miss Bukiwe Sibanda, a fourth year Journalism and Media Studies student at Nust, said the Deputy Minister touched on pertinent issues that as aspiring journalists and media practitioners they can take home.
Miss Melinda Ncube, also doing her fourth year at Nust, said the repeal of AIPPA was welcome and called on more to be done to protect journalists online.
“The repeal of laws like AIPPA was a plus for journalists and we now know that we can access information without hindrance. AIPPA was also instrumental in us self-censoring as we would filter information because of this draconian law,” she said.
In his welcoming remarks, Prof Dlodlo said the institution was now churning out media and journalism students who are self-sufficient.
“We are no longer training our students for the job market only, but we want them to turn their innovations into start-up companies that can create employment and produce content for the various media platforms,” said Prof Dlodlo.
He said Nust had reviewed its Journalism and Media Studies curriculum to include digital journalism, data journalism and data analytics and will soon introduce a Bachelor of Technology degree in Mass Communication soon.
Mr Yusuph said journalists play an essential role in disseminating information and it is a public good that should be defended and supported.