Paragraph 3 reads as follows; “By a pluralistic press we mean the end of monopolies of any kind and the existence of the greatest possible number of newspapers, magazines and periodicals reflecting the widest possible range of opinion within the community”. Today Zimbabwe has a number of registered publishers and broadcasters who some of whom are already giving citizens diverse coverage of issues in fulfillment of the Windhoek Declaration.
Madam Speaker, paragraph 12 says “To assist in the presentation of the freedoms enumerated above, the establishment of truly independent, representative associations, syndicates or Trade Unions of journalist and association of editors and publishers, is a matter of priority in all the countries of Africa where such bodies do not exist”. Our constitution speaks to this issue extensively as freedom of the media is one of the freedoms which is part of our Bill of Rights. The other state and Government agencies are obligated with the responsibility of not only protecting but enhancing freedom of the media and of expression.
I will now turn to the three paragraphs and look at them as a whole. Paragraphs 2, 3 and 12 of the Windhoek Declaration have perpetual relevance to Africa and South Africa in general in the context of globalisation, digitisation, convergence and the economic war between the United States and China over 5G technologies. Two other challenges that we have witnessed recently are the powers of monopolies such as Google and Amazon.
In this regard, Africa and Zimbabwe in particular, should invest in media infrastructure. This will allow us as a people to have a media that is responsive to the needs and aspirations of us as a people. Today we live in a world characterized by monopolies. The way we communicate and relate is already defined by global giants such as Google. Such developments in the information communication technologies (ICT) were not envisaged by either the Windhoek Declaration of the New International Information Order (NIIO) under the auspices of the South-South Cooperation. It means we are really calling for a revisit to relook at that Declaration and bring it up to speed.
Madam Speaker, our society is used to be defined by scarcity of information which required the sharing of this scarce resource. Today information is ubiquitous. The growth in ICTs and social media platforms has meant that information is everywhere. What is needed today is how best we as a nation can harness the technological resource for national unity and development. These developments were not foreseen at the time this Declaration was adopted and therefore, we must move with the times. We need to relook at the Declaration.
We need a strong media infrastructure that can support the sustainability of particularly the local media in the context of devolution. We need this infrastructure if the devolution agenda is to be achieved. We need a press that talks in local languages. A people can best communicate and understand issues when they do that in their own languages.
The powers of donor and donor funded NGOs over African media associations and even trade unions are a cause for concern. Our media should carry an agenda of our own philosophy and development trajectory. We decry a media whose agenda is shaped by donors and other agencies. Our media should speak to our own issues as we see them. An independent media does not take direction from any corner. This independence is what the media and the declaration are all about. Media independence is the cornerstone of democracy.
Madam Speaker, silence kills democracy and this destroys society. Zimbabwe needs a free press to speak up and sustain our democracy and society. Freedom of the press is not just important to democracy; it is that which shapes our democracy. I thank you.