/ 6 April 2009

Zim to relax media restrictions

Zimbabwe’s new power-sharing government will relax the country’s harsh media laws and improve prison conditions as part of reforms to be implemented within 100 days, a minister told state media on Monday.

”There was an agreement to review the media policy so as to create a climate where divergent voices will be heard,” Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa told the state-run Herald newspaper, after a three-day ministerial retreat in the resort town of Victoria Falls over the weekend.

”We want to see a multiplicity of media houses.”

In 2002 President Robert Mugabe’s government introduced stringent media laws, which banned foreign reporters and privately-owned daily newspapers, including a famously critical local paper.

Chinamasa said the government would also address the plight of prisoners.

”We want to improve the justice delivery system including the restoration of prisoners’ rights,” he said.

Last week, a television documentary filmed secretly by a South African investigative news programme showed shocking conditions inside Zimbabwean jails.

Pictures of emaciated prisoners suffering from malnutrition-related diseases, highlighted the plight of the hundreds of thousands prisoners starving inside prisons.

”We have agreed to meet the basic needs of all prisoners in terms of food, clothing, bedding and health within the next 30 days,” said Chinamasa.

Zimbabwe’s three main political rivals formed a power-sharing government in February, following controversial presidential polls in March 2008 which saw Mugabe lose votes for the first time since 1980. — Sapa-AFP