Zimbabwe cannot prosper if freedom of expression is trampled upon
Tsvangirai bemoans state of the media in Zimbabwe
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Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister in the inclusive government, Morgan Tsvangirai, has lamented the media environment in Zimbabwe saying the nation cannot prosper if freedom of expression is trampled upon.
In his inaugural address to the Seventh parliament of Zimbabwe Wednesday, Tsvangirai said journalists should be able to practice without being inhibited by unnecessary restrictions.
“No society can be free, or hope to prosper, without freedom of expression and communication. This too is recognized within the GPA (Global Political Agreement) …..Those wishing to practice journalism must be able to do so without being prohibited by unnecessary restrictions or exorbitant fees, “he said.
Zimbabwe is notorious in the region for introducing media laws that have witnessed the closure of newspapers deemed critical of the state and wanton persecution of journalists, especially from the independent media.
The Premier urged the media both public and private to conduct themselves in a professional manner and particularly using hostile language to guard against inciting antagonism among people and also to give fair coverage to political parties as well as other organizations.
“All public and private media must refrain from using abusive language that may incite hostility, political intolerance and ethnic hatred or that unfairly undermines political parties and other organizations,” said Tsvangirai.
Many people lost their lives and property was destroyed during last year’s March and June elections ad the media have been partly blamed for fanning violence among different political party supporters through the use of hate language.
The public media which is supposed to serve the interests of the public and has over the years lost its mandate instead touring a partisan line particularly that of the ruling elite is one area Tsvangirai said would be looked into so that the public media is balanced and fair.
..”Steps will be taken to ensure that the public media provides balanced and fair coverage to all political parties for their legitimate political activities.”
Zimbabwe is the only country in the Southern African region where government has monopoly over broadcasting with one television station and four radio stations. This state of affairs has witnessed the proliferation of external radio stations broadcasting outside the borders.
Tsvangirai said if government sets a conducive media environment there would be no need for journalists to operate these external radio stations.
“Once an open and free media environment has been achieved, there will be no need for Zimbabwean radio stations to be based abroad and I would encourage those running and working for such stations to return home and help us build a truly free and open communication network in Zimbabwe.”
Added Tsvangirai: “Such concepts of freedom are not foreign to our culture or our continent, nor are they imposed by outsiders. Evidence of this is clear in our neighbouring countries where the rights of the people are defended vigorously, where political parties are free to campaign and where there is a healthy choice of radio and television stations and newspapers to choose from.”
The Prime Minister also dismissed constant interference by government in business operations saying…”A government that cares about business has no business being in business. Rather its role is to ensure that an enabling environment exists….that allows the market to dictate prices for all goods and services without underplaying the developmental role of the state.”