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MISA calls on new government ministers to fulfil international obligations on freedom of expression

(MISA/IFEX) - The following is a 27 February 2009 MISA press release:

MISA-Zimbabwe statement on the inclusive government and media reforms
27 February, Harare

MISA-Zimbabwe cautiously welcomes the formation of the inclusive government that signed the September 15, 2008 Global Political Agreement (GPA) and extends its congratulations to Honorable Morgan Tsvangirai, Honourable Aurthur Mutambara and Honourable Thokozani Khupe following their swearing-in as Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Ministers of Zimbabwe, respectively.

We also take this opportunity to congratulate all the new government ministers and in particular Honourables Nelson Chamisa, the Minister of Information and Communications Technology, and Webster Shamu, the Minister of Media, Information and Publicity, as well as Honourable Jameson Timba, the Deputy Minister of Media, Information and Publicity.

Cognisant of the immense challenges of the new government and the nation's high expectations in addressing the socio-economic and political problems afflicting the country, MISA-Zimbabwe remains guided by its mission and vision, as enunciated under the 1991 Windhoek Declaration, in its engagement with the new government and other key stakeholders.

As the new information ministers and the government at large assume their responsibilities, MISA-Zimbabwe humbly reminds them of Zimbabwe's urgent need to fulfil its obligations under the international treaties and charters that the country has ratified, among them, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, Banjul Declaration on the Principles of Freedom of Expression in Africa, Windhoek Declaration and African Charter on Broadcasting.

It is also MISA-Zimbabwe's considered view that a free and unfettered media will undoubtedly play a critical role in the realisation of all other aspects that are articulated in the GPA, especially the transformation of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) from a state broadcaster to a truly independent Public Service Broadcaster.

As Zimbabwe painstakingly works towards ushering a new political dispensation in the context of the inclusive government, MISA-Zimbabwe urges the new political players to immediately demonstrate their commitment to freedom of expression, media freedom, justice, equality, tolerance, openness, non-discrimination and respect to human dignity through the following concrete actions:

1. An immediate cessation of the arrests, harassment and torture of journalists, civic society activists and media houses reporting on Zimbabwe.

2. The granting of permission to all media houses (both foreign and local) to cover the political situation as it unfolds.

3. The suspension and subsequent repealing of all repressive legislation that targets the media and, in particular, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), Public Order and Security Act (POSA), Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) and the Interception of Communications Act.

4. An immediate conversion of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation from a state broadcaster into a truly independent public broadcaster as mandated under the guidelines of the African Charter on Broadcasting.

5. Recognising the urgent and pressing need for a people-driven consultative constitution-making process that will culminate in a new democratic constitution that explicitly guarantees media freedom and access to information.

In making these pleas, MISA-Zimbabwe remains committed to playing a meaningful role with all progressive forces, without any fear or bias, towards the emergence of an environment that allows citizens to enjoy their fundamental right to freedom of expression, association, assembly, access to information and media freedom, to foster democracy, equality, human dignity and economic prosperity.

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