Zimbabwean journalists to defy media bill

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afrol News, 21 January - Over 75 Zimbabwean journalists, from all over the country gathered in the capital Harare on Saturday, January 19, to discuss their future and a way forward in light of the draconian media bill to be considered by parliament this week. In Windhoek, Namibia, there were also demonstrations.

The journalists who gathered under the auspices of the Zimbabwe chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) resolved that none of them would comply with registration requirements as proposed in the Bill.

The meeting which was also attended by foreign correspondents operating in Zimbabwe decided on sending a delegation to Information Minister Jonathan Moyo's office on Monday, January 21, 2002, with a third petition on the concerns of journalists operating in Zimbabwe. 

- The journalists agreed that the petition must be very clear on the controversial clauses of the Bill, according to a release by MISA. "The same petition will be sent to the speaker of parliament Emmerson Mnangangwa and the Chief Whips of the two main parties, Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF), the Movement for Democratic Change and all parliamentarians."

In deciding on the contents of the petition the journalists agreed that there is no need to take a confrontational approach at the moment, as the amendments that are being made on the Bill are not yet out.

The Zimbabwe Union of Journalists, The Independent Journalists Association of Zimbabwe, The Federation of African Media Women of Zimbabwe and the Association of Foreign Correspondents attended the meeting. Resolutions adopted spell out that the journalists will embark on a phased approach to the crisis likely to be ushered in the media industry by the Bill. 

It was agreed that the first thing to be done is to send a petition to Moyo and all parliamentarians. If the concerns of the media are ignored, as is largely expected, a series of demonstrations will be embarked upon. A process of defiance of the new law will follow the demonstrations.

The journalists agreed that there is need to create alliances with other organisations and also educate ordinary members of the public on the implications of the bill. It was also agreed that there is need to lobby regional and international bodies such as the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), United Nations, European Union and the Commonwealth, on the Media bill.

The meetings agreed that a series of court challenges would be launched challenging various oppressive sections of the Bill. The journalists agreed that the coordination of all the court challenges and any legal issue around the media situation in Zimbabwe would be done by MISA-Zimbabwe. 

Demonstration in Windhoek

"Silence is death of democracy"

MISA demonstration in Windhoek, Namibia

The meeting was also told that MISA-Zimbabwe has already launched a Legal Defence Fund. Although the Fund is a long-term project, it is largely expected to assist in dealing with the new repressive law. It was also agreed that the struggle against the new impending law must be visible so that ordinary Zimbabweans can get to know of the effects of the law to their own lives. The journalists agreed that it is upon them to let other organisations such as business, youths, and women's groups know of the implications of the bill through the creation of organic linkages.

The controversial Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Bill is expected to be brought back to parliament on Tuesday this week after undergoing amendments last week. The Bill has been dismissed as draconian and targeted at Zimbabwe's independent media.

Demonstrations in Namibia
Meanwhile, the Namibian chapter of MISA organised a demonstration in Windhoek, the Namibian capital. Journalists, covering their mouth, protested against the silencing of the press in Zimbabwe (see photo). 

There have also been protests from several other southern African countries, including Swaziland, where journalists demanded their government should protest the "deteriorating press freedom situation in Zimbabwe."

Sources: Based on MISA and afrol archives

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