By Nomalanga Moyo
SW Radio Africa
05 May 2014
Information Minister Jonathan Moyo has criticised the police for preventing journalists from marching to mark World Press Freedom Day over the weekend.
The marchers, who included journalists and media activists, had planned to walk from Chinhoyi Street to Africa Unity Square, the venue for the event.
The organisers, the Zimbabwe Association of Community Radios (ZACRAS) and the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ), say police cleared the event last month.
However on Saturday anti-riot police told the marchers to disperse, and that permission had been withdrawn “due to other events of national interest”.
In a joint statement the two media groups said the ban “flies against the spirit of press freedom and access to information which is universally celebrated May 3rd.
“The ban is an outright violation of Constitutional provisions which seek to promote media freedom and access to information.
“The media space, especially in broadcasting, is still constricted. Journalists are still being arrested as they would still have been in 2008. We have not seen any huge appetite to align our media laws to the new constitution,” the groups said.
Information Minister Jonathan Moyo, whose ministry had been invited to the press event, reacted to its ban with his own hard-hitting statement blasting the police.
Moyo described the 11th hour ban as politically-motivated, “unconstitutional and without any transparent, rational or constructive justification”.
“It should be placed on the record that the kneejerk propensity to always and everywhere use or show force for its own sake is not revolutionary by any stretch of the imagination,” part of Moyo’s statement reads.
But civil rights activists say Moyo is just paying lip service to press freedom and until his government repeals the much-hated Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), of which he was the chief architect, he is shedding crocodile tears.
“Moyo is as dirty and as guilty as they come. Surely, he must think that we forget so fast that he is the father AIPPA. If he wants us to give him the slightest of the benefit of the doubt, he must push for the repeal of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and AIPPA,” said Mfundo Mlilo, Crisis in Zim Coalition spokesman.
Another campaigner, Mmeli Dube, dismissed Moyo as a “top-notch grandstander” who has managed to fool even journalists into thinking that he is on their side.
Dube added: “Moyo has been grandstanding and some impressionable people are ululating. As part of ZANU PF he is collectively guilty of the corruption that he has been exposing, for whatever motives.
“This posturing extends to the minister’s engagements with the media. If Moyo was genuinely against the police for banning the Press Freedom Day march, why did he not do something to ensure it went ahead? We want more,” Dube said.
The Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe said the right to press freedom provided for in the constitution, should not only be on paper but in practice as well.
“For as long as the current laws are not aligned to the new Constitution the police will continue to act within the confines of the law, regardless of their unconstitutionality. This is why POSA, AIPPA and other laws that infringe on media freedom should be dealt with urgently,” the media rights group said.
Gerry Jackson is the founder and station manager of SW Radio Africa. In 2000 she challenged the government’s broadcasting monopoly in the Supreme Court and won the right to set up the first independent radio station in Zimbabwe. Robert Mugabe overturned the court ruling and had the station shut down at gunpoint, and its equipment was seized. The man making sure this happened was Jonathan Moyo. With the help of lawyer Terence Hussein, Jonathan Moyo then crafted the broadcasting act to ensure that there was no hope of any independent broadcasters in the future. And that situation remains to this day.
She said she hoped Zimbabweans were seeing through Moyo’s deception.
“I hope no one believes anything Jonathan Moyo says. The ZANU PF strategy at the moment is to be recognised as legitimate by the international community.
“Right now some ZANU PF chefs appear to be saying the right thing – Mugabe backtracking on indigenisation, Moyo pretending to be on the side of press freedom. This makes the international community hope that change might come from within ZANU PF. But there’s a well know saying – the dictator is not the solution, he’s the problem.
“And Jonathan Moyo is the dictator’s way of controlling the media. He absolutely controls the state media and remains one of the worst predators of press freedom in Zimbabwe today,” Jackson added.