Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Why the Media Needs to Change – Protect and Enhance Zimbabwean Democracy through Information

By Diana Patel

Zimbabweans are waiting patiently for the announcement of the new Zimbabwe Media Commission. The names of the proposed commissioners have been forwarded to the President two months ago and, we expect the appointment of the new Zimbabwe Media Commission by the end of this month, together with those of the other three commissions, the Zimbabwe Commission on Human Rights, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, and the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission. We need the new Zimbabwe Media Commission in place so that other potential players in the media, such as the long awaited daily newspaper, News Day, can obtain a license to operate. The more players in the arena the better our chances of access to information.


For democracy to function in Zimbabwe people’s access to information is essential. The free flow of information is critical for people to actively engage in national and local activities. However, while access to information is essential the definition of what is valuable information is open to debate. Zimbabweans have had very limited sources of information. They have been denied something that is essential for participation in community life. We need information to participate in elections and community activities, we need access to information to better our lives.


Zimbabweans need news and information to be able to take advantage of life’s opportunities for themselves and their families. We need information to participate fully in our system of government, for us to stand up and be heard. MKD’s values of openness, inclusion, participation and empowerment together with the pursuit of truth and the public interest are all important in pursuing democracy, allowing people’s voices to be heard. We have many journalists in Zimbabwe who have continued to work hard to pursue and promote these values.


New technology, the internet and mobile phones, allow us to connect and access information globally, but we still have difficulty accessing information nationally and  locally, where we live and work. Information is as vital to the healthy functioning of communities as jobs, clean air, safe streets and public health. Informed communities can effectively coordinate activities, achieve public accountability and solve problems. To achieve democracy in Zimbabwe we need access to information.


Where families struggle to make ends meet and many men and women work multiple jobs, time to access information that could better our lives is limited. Information must be easily accessible if we want communities to engage. MKD wants people to engage nationally and locally, and the path to this engagement may well be through fulfillment  of basic information about jobs, shelter and housing, health care, education, food, electricity and water. The first requirement of engagement is access to relevant and credible information, MKD promotes the free flow of information,freedom of the media, democratic dialogue and a vibrant well- informed society. MKD hopes that this will be of major concern to the new Zimbabwe Media Commission.

Diana Patel is a member of the Mavambo.Kusile.Dawn National Steering Committee and Convener of the Social Services Cluster of the party

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