Heal Zimbabwe joins the rest of the world in commemorating World Press Freedom Day. The theme for this year is, “Journalism without Fear or Favour”.The theme underscores the important role played by journalists and recognizes their sacrifices to ensure that they report news without fear or favour.
The commemorations for this year are taking place at a time when the world is struggling to contain the Covid-19 pandemic and journalists across the world are in line of duty ensuring free flow of accurate information and telling stories without fear or favour. This demonstrates that the media is an important organ of any democratic society. It is the backbone of any democratic society as it makes citizens vigilant of numerous social, political and economic activities. Even in times of disasters, the media has continued to play its role of informing, entertaining and educating citizens on key issues.
For Zimbabwe, World Press Freedom day is taking place at a time when the High Court on 20 April 2020, issued an order directing all law enforcement agents to stop harassing journalists during the Covid 9 lockdown. From the time the lockdown took effect a total of 10 journalists had either been assaulted or harassed while on duty. This was in total violation of the constitution that provides for freedom of expression and freedom of the media in Section 61 of the constitution. Heal Zimbabwe acknowledges the important role played by the media to build peace and social cohesion. During Zimbabwe’s past episodes of violence such as Gukurahundi and the 2008 violence, the media played the critical role of informing the world about the violence. At a time when the country is fighting against Covid-19 the media is beset by a magnitude of problems. At the centre of the problems is the reluctance by government to license community radio stations whose role especially during the Covid 19 pandemic would have been greatly needed. Community radio stations will have played an important role o raising awareness on Covid 19 especially in remote districts.
On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, Heal Zimbabwe implores government to ensure that journalists are always protected from any form of victimization and allowed to conduct their duties freely. Added to this, government must further operationalize an Independent Complaints mechanism that will receive and investigate complaints from citizens about the misconduct on the part of members of the security services in the event that they violate fundamental human rights of journalists or citizens.