This was said by the international journalists’ organization Reporters without Borders in an open letter to the Zimbabwean leader in which it called on Mnangagwa to amend laws that impose severe curbs on press freedom.
RSF, as the organization is known under its French acronym which stands for Reporters Sans Frontières, said Mnangagwa’s election had raised hopes for Zimbabwe’s journalists who had suffered more than two decades of persecution under his predecessor President Robert Mugabe.
“We welcome the many promises you gave during your first nine months as President to amend the laws that impose severe curbs on press freedom,” the organization said.
“Nonetheless, the ‘new Zimbabwe’ of which you spoke at your swearing-in on 26 August will not see the light of day if your promises are not translated into concrete action.
“Unfortunately, the legislation that oppresses the media has still not been changed, access to state-owned media was very unequal in the run-up to the election, and several journalists were physically attacked by the security forces. Zimbabwe is currently ranked 126th out of 180 countries in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index.”
RSF cited at least four journalists whom it said were victims of violence on 1 August, These were Yeshiel Panchia, Idah Mhetu, Joseph Cotterill and Tinotenda Samukange.
It said for Zimbabwe to improve its ranking in the next World Press Freedom Index, it should:
- End impunity by systematically prosecuting those responsible for violence against journalists, including members of the security forces and political party officials and activists.
- Raise awareness in the security forces and among political party activists about the need to respect journalists, who play a key role in the public debate.
- Amend or repeal the laws that restrict press freedom, above all the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), the Official Secrets Act (OSA), the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) and the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
- Transform the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) into a pluralistic service broadcaster so that it can be much more than just a relay of the government’s activities.
- Open up broadcasting sector to actors from all political tendencies so that they can obtain TV and radio broadcast licences and so that media pluralism can finally become a reality in Zimbabwe.