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Journalists barred from ZANU-PF congress

(MISA/IFEX) - Journalists Faith Zaba and Wongai Zhangazha, who are employed by the privately-owned "Zimbabwe Independent" newspaper, were on 10 December 2009 barred from covering the ongoing Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) congress which opened in Harare on 9 December.

Constantine Chimakure, news editor with the weekly newspaper, confirmed to MISA-Zimbabwe that Zaba and Zhangazha were barred from covering the official opening of the congress by security personnel at the Harare International Conference Centre. Chimakure said the two were simply told that they were not welcome at the venue of the congress. He said the paper tried in vain to contact ZANU-PF deputy spokesperson Ephraim Masawi for further details on the matter but that his mobile phone was not being answered.

MISA-Zimbabwe strongly condemns this incident and expresses its great concern over the continued suppression of media freedom and freedom of expression in Zimbabwe. Ironically, this occurred on the day when Zimbabwe, together with the rest of the world, was commemorating International Human Rights Day held under the theme "Embrace diversity, End discrimination. The incident involving the "Zimbabwe Independent" journalists constitutes a serious contradiction in terms as it deprives the independent media of its lawful and professional role of freely accessing and disseminating information in the public interest.

Discrimination against the privately-owned media only serves to entrench media polarisation and clearly contravenes the provisions of Article 19 of the Global Political Agreement signed by ZANU-PF and the two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formations, resulting in the birth of the inclusive government. Under the agreement the three political parties, among other issues, committed themselves to freeing the media space and securing media diversity.

Regrettably, the Zimbabwean media space remains restricted with the independent media being vilified and discriminated against despite global calls for diversity to be embraced and for an end to all forms of discrimination.

As the constitution making process gets underway, MISA-Zimbabwe reiterates its demands for a constitutional provision that explicitly guarantees media freedom as critical to the fundamental right of citizens to access information from a diverse, independent and pluralistic media.

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