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» »Unlabelled » Media must escalate lobbying for relaxation of laws on access to information: MISA

BY JAMES MUONWA

Media lobby organisations and other stakeholders have been called upon to intensify lobbying government for further relaxation of media laws that curtail easy and timeous access to information held by public institutions.

The clarion call comes in the wake of a slight shift by President Emmerson Mnangagwa's administration allowing the media access to information, albeit some quarters still feel public institutions deny media practitioners access to data.

Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zimbabwe board member, Davison Maruziva said the media must celebrate strides made to enable journalists easy access to public information, underscoring the need to engage government to further relax some draconian media laws.

"As we lobby for further relaxation of media laws, we need to celebrate the gains made so far. For example, the mandatory timeline that a public institution respond to a request for information within 21 days.

"We now have the Freedom of Information Bill that will replace AIPPA (Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act) which had some shortcomings. So we will get there, maybe even up to seven days," said Maruziva, former editor of The Standard.

Maruziva made the observation during the Zimbabwe 2020 Transparency Index Report held in Chinhoyi recently.

The transparency assessment identified the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) as the most open institution in the country, while Chitungwiza Municipality was adjudged the most secretive.

MISA has been conducting research and studies since 2009 to establish the difficulty with which citizens in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) encounter to get public information.

The study was also part of commemorations to mark the International Day for Universal Access to Information which is commemorated yearly on 28 September.

EMA was assessed as the most open institution after being assessed as being active on social media and maintaining a "partially" up to date website. Although the institution was unable to provide information that had been requested, they explained their reasons for not availing it.

The report noted that Chitungwiza Municipality ignored requests for information.

Other organisations featured in the survey are: Chipinge Rural District Council, Forestry Commission of Zimbabwe, Ministry of Health and Child Care, Ministry of Mines and Mining Development, Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development, Mutare City Council and Zimbabwe School Examinations Council.

Regionally, similar studies were conducted in Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania and Zambia. (Picture: Davison Maruziva)-LOCAL NEWS

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