M&G's Ncube honoured for press freedom contribution
Mail & Guardian owner Trevor Ncube has been recognised for his contribution to press freedom by the Zimbabwean chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa).
The institute seeks to advance the press freedom principles of the Windhoek Declaration, which calls for a free, pluralistic and independent media in Africa.
Misa Zimbabwe’s senior programmes officer Nyasha Nyahuku said the organisation presented Ncube with the award for his role in providing Zimbabweans with alternative platforms for critical, alternative views on social, economic and political issues.
“Since 2003, [Ncube’s company] Alpha Media Holding has played a critical role in filling the void created by the closing of the Daily News in ensuring that Zimbabweans have access to critical information and access to alternative views,” he said.
“We believe in so doing, its publications — in particular the Zimbawe Independent and the Standard — have advanced the principles and views of the Windhoek Declaration.”
Zimbabwe’s independent daily newspaper, the Daily News, was banned in 2003. Before it was closed, its offices were raided by police and a number of its journalists were physically attacked, harassed and jailed.
Ncube told the M&G the award recognised the work the AMH team does in providing Zimbaweans platforms to express themselves. “The AMH team pushes the envelope every day to keep Zimbabweans at home and in the diaspora informed about what is taking place in the country. Many of our journalists have been intimidated and harassed by the government and some detained for simply doing their work. A number are out on bail facing vexatious litigation from various arms of government and people close to the ruling party,” he said.
He said that frequent threats to the independent media and the AMH stable in particular confirm the Zimbabwean government’s hostility to efforts to expose corruption, abuse of human rights and poor governance.
“This award will encourage the efforts of all my colleagues at AMH who refuse to be dissuaded from doing their professional work by government and Zanu-PF’s strong-arm tactics,” he added.
Ncube said Zimbabwe continues to be one of the most dangerous places in the world to work as a journalist. The country is ranked 117 in Reporters Without Borders’ 2011/2012 Press Freedom Index.
According to a report on Bulawayo24, Zimbabwean high court judge Siwanda Kenneth Sibanda, who spoke at the event, said he was alarmed by the “levels of regression” in countries that have been viewed as legislative role models in terms of freedom of expression.
Sibanda said it was sad that South Africa has mooted instruments to control the free flow of information.
Meanwhile lawmakers in South Africa have entered the final stretch of deliberations concerning the hotly contested Protection of State Information Bill, which freedom of expression advocates have warned could have a chilling effect on journalists and whistleblowers.
Members of Parliament will hold a series of meetings this week to discuss changes to the so-called Secrecy Bill, which could be finalised by next Tuesday. It’s rumoured that significant changes to the Bill may be on the cards.
ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu is reported to have said that a public interest defence, which was missing from the original draft of the Bill, could yet be on the cards.
Right2Know campaign coordinator Murray Hunter said South Africa is in the unique position to create a law that could break into new territory in terms of protecting not only state information but also the free flow of information in a democracy.
“[If] the Bill is passed with its draconian provisions intact, not only does it take South Africa backwards, it communicates a ruinous message to neighbouring countries where you have democrats who are working equally hard to dismantle abusive state secrecy,” he said.
“But if parliamentarians can rise to the moment and meet the demands for a public interest defence, we can set a new benchmark for emerging democracies across the world.”