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Zimbabwe striving to make media sector more plural

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(FILE) A file picture taken in front of the Saudi Consulate in Neuilly-Sur-Seine, west of Paris on October 1, 2019 shows dummies with press armbands and jacket piled up by Reporters without borders (RSF) members during a protest to mark the one year of the death of Jamal Khashoggi. - The annual report by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said on April 19, 2021 that journalism was at least partly blocked in nearly three-quarters of the 180 countries surveyed. Its World Press Freedom Index found 73 countries "totally blocked or seriously impeded" journalism, while it was "constrained" in 59 others, adding that many governments had used the pandemic to worsen repression. (Photo by PHILIPPE LOPEZ / AFP) Photo: Philippe Lopez/AFP/dpa

Zimbabwe is striving to make its media sector more plural and diverse so that every voice in the country is heard, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said Wednesday.

She said over the past three years, the country had recorded a number of milestones to benefit the media sector.

“Zimbabwe, under the Second Republic led by President E.D. Mnangagwa, is on an unprecedented path of not just opening up the media sector but also making the work of our media workers freer and without hindrance,” Mutsvangwa said in a speech to commemorate this year’s World Press Freedom Day.

Mutsvangwa said among other positive developments, the government in 2020 repealed the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which had been widely criticized for stifling media space, and enacted the Freedom of Information Act in July 2020.

The new law provides citizens and media practitioners with the right to access information as espoused by the country’s Constitution.

The government also amended the Broadcasting Services Act, which has since seen the opening up of the sector through licensing of new players in the form of commercial television players, commercial radio and community radio stations, Mutsvangwa said.

She said recently, the government launched a 125 million U.S. dollars digital switchover program that will see at least 12 free-to-air television stations coming on stream.

“Further, we have installed close to two dozen transmitters that will see more areas that previously did not receive radio and television signals getting information for the first time since independence,” she said.

The minister, however, bemoaned the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the country’s media sector.

“The pandemic hastened the downhill spiral of media economies. Now, our media establishments have been forced to cut down on costs and staff, streamline business as well as adopt a wait-and-see approach,” she said, noting many media companies in the country were barely surviving, causing a lot of problems for media workers and the whole value chain.

“Indeed, it is hard when you do not know what tomorrow holds,” she said.

She said the government will continuously open up the media landscape so that remote villages and marginalized communities find their voices.

“We urge various actors to continually engage the government and come up with solutions and technologies that will enhance media and communications in the country,” she said. Enditem

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