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Publisher Trevor Ncube wins inaugural MISA-Zimbabwe Press Freedom Award

(MISA/IFEX) - 7 May 2012 - Alpha Media Holdings (AMH) publisher Trevor Ncube has scooped the inaugural MISA-Zimbabwe Press Freedom Award for continuing to provide platforms and access to critical alternative views and ideas on Zimbabwe's socio-economic and political issues.

The award was presented at a MISA-Zimbabwe World Press Freedom Day dinner which also coincided with the Justice John Oliver Manyarara Memorial Lecture held at Bulawayo Rainbow Hotel on 4 May 2012 in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second largest city.

AMH are publishers of the Zimbabwe Independent, Standard and Newsday - publications which played a critical role in filling the information void and ensuring Zimbabweans had access to alternative information following the seven-year ban of the The Daily News in 2003 (prior to resumption of publication in 2011), under the repressive Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Ncube's publications continue to play an essential role in advancing the principles and vision of the 1991 Windhoek Declaration from which MISA, and inherently MISA-Zimbabwe, derives its mandate as a freedom of expression advocacy and lobby group.

The Declaration stresses that an independent, pluralistic and diverse press is essential to the realisation of democracy and economic growth.

Other nominees included media activist Takura Zhangazha, Father Nigel Johnson, founder of the still-to-be-licensed Radio Dialogue community radio initiative, veteran broadcaster Mavis Moyo and Voice of America's Studio 7 which is run by exiled Zimbabwean journalists based in Washington D.C. in the United States.

Meanwhile, guest speaker at the event, retired High Court judge, Justice Siwanda Kenneth Sibanda who delivered the second John Oliver Manyarara Memorial Lecture, described the late Justice Manyarara, who was the founding Chairperson of the MISA Regional Secretariat Trust Fund Board as a “luminary, a champion and studious advocate of justice and human rights”.

“Justice Manyarara was not only passionate about justice delivery but a firm believer in the promotion and protection of basic civil liberties. He did not only fight for these freedoms in the country, but straddled across borders. His stubborn fight for justice and the protection of fundamental freedoms contributed in the adoption of explicit constitutional guarantees for a free press and access to information in the region,” said Justice Sibanda.

He expressed regret that while countries such as Mozambique and South Africa have constitutions that guarantee media freedom and access to information, Justice Manyarara's own home country is still to provide similar constitutional shields to protect the full enjoyment of these basic liberties.

He also noted that the southern African region had made strides in the protection of a free press and the proliferation of private commercial and community radio stations through the resilience of Justice Manyarara and his colleagues.

“Regrettably, as we commemorate a life well lived and a character so principled, we have seen threats to corrode the very pillars of freedom Justice Manyarara embraced. While we are slowly and reluctantly, if not deceitfully, fulfilling Justice Manyarara's dream of a free media space, we sadly read that our own neighbour, South Africa, which we hold in high regard as a model in the promotion of freedom of expression and the media, is now mooting instruments to control the free flow of information,” he said.

Justice Sibanda urged MISA to continue building on the solid foundation laid by Justice Manyarara in the struggle for media freedom, freedom of expression and a just southern African region.

Justice Manyarara was born in 1930 and served on the Zimbabwe High Court and Supreme Court before his retirement in 1994. He subsequently served as Acting Judge of the Namibian High Court from 2000 until his death in 2010.

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