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Zimbabwe yesterday joined the rest of the world in commemorating World Press Freedom Day, with unions calling for the safety of journalists and freedom to discharge their duties.
This year, the commemorations are running under the global theme — “Journalism without fear or favour”.
Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) secretary general, Foster Dongozi said the theme should act as a reminder of commitment to professional and ethical journalism and that journalists be allowed to work without fear.
He said this year’s commemorations were being held under difficult circumstances in which journalists once more find themselves in the frontline in fight against Covid-19.
“That the first casualty of the Covid-19 (in Zimbabwe) was a journalist, is enough evidence on the high levels of exposure of journalists to the pandemic,” said Dongozi.
“ZUJ believes that professional and ethical journalism cannot thrive in an environment of fear and poverty, hence our call that in addition to non-interference in the way professional and ethical journalists conduct themselves, they should be paid wages which are above the Poverty Datum Line (PDL).
“As a recommendation, it has been suggested that employers, embassies, the corporate sector and international organisations should support journalists by providing adequate protective material to ensure their safety and security. This can be done through availing hand sanitisers, face masks and other types of protective clothing.”
In the broadcasting sector, employers are urged to invest in longer microphones to enable journalists and their interviewees to observe the social distancing requirements.
Dongozi called on the telecommunications sector to support journalists by providing free internet and free phone calls for those conducting interviews and disseminating information.
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) under their umbrella body of the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ), said outside of the global theme, it was commemorating this year’s event under the theme; “Free, independent and safe media key to access to information for all”.
It said the themes come at a time when journalists and newspaper vendors continued to face challenges in the discharge of their duties.
In her World Press Freedom Day message, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa urged media houses to improve the welfare of journalists through “life-rewarding salaries” and decent working conditions.
Minister Mutsvangwa said Government was committed to ensuring a safe working environment for media personnel.
She said reporters and journalists were agents of searching, processing and spreading information to the general public.
“It is, therefore, important that their ability to carry out this task is not tampered with,” she said.
“They must be given the space so that they can speak truth to power. Safety of their working environment is very crucial. The threat of death or imprisonment of reporters and journalists has no place in civilised societies.
“It is also important to ensure that press workers’ welfare is improved upon through provision of decent working conditions and life-rewarding salaries. The Government of Zimbabwe is fully committed to the principles of press freedom and this is obtained in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights.”
The United Nations General Assembly declared May 3 as World Press Freedom Day or just World Press Day, which aims to raise awareness on the centrality of freedom of the Press and remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression enshrined under Article 19 of the 1948 UDHR, and marking the anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration.
The Windhoek Declaration is a statement of free press principles crafted by African newspaper journalists in Windhoek in 1991.