Huge strides achieved in ensuring access to info
George Maponga–Masvingo Bureau
A lot has been achieved by the Second Republic under President Mnangagwa’s leadership for information to be accessible to Zimbabweans, including those in rural areas, in schools and in various Government departments, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Dr Jenfan Muswere has said.
He was speaking at Chivi Growth Point in Masvingo yesterday during the joint celebrations to mark World Post Day and the International Day for Access to Information.
“The first thing that was done by President Mnangagwa was to lay the foundation for fulfilling the requirements of our constitution in relation to Sections 61 and Section 62 of our Constitution,’’ said Dr Muswere.
“Our President then spearheaded in the crafting of laws like the Zimbabwe Media Commission Act and also the Freedom of Information Act and also the Cyber and Data Protection Act. The President has worked so hard to protect and promote access to information by all citizens of Zimbabwe and from there he also looked at the regulatory side where focus was on encouraging investment in the ICT sector and the broadcasting sector.
“The Government also oversaw the creation of a framework to make sure the country has community radio stations and also issuing of licences to media organisations that want to communicate Zimbabwe’s success stories.”
Dr Muswere hailed President Mnangagwa for influencing the birth of a new Information Communication Technology Policy in 2018 and the National Broadband Plan this year to underpin economic growth through use of ICTs.
The ICT policy puts in place institutional and legal frameworks aimed at promoting growth of the ICT sector and the economy at large.
“All these developments have reached a convergence point where there is no major difference between issues of broadcasting and issues of ICT, these two are now sectors that are now working closely and complementing each other and that is why Zimbabweans are witnessing the two ministries (Information, Publicity and Broadcasting and ICT) together at the same place,” said Dr Muswere.
“This is a whole of Government approach where companies under the Ministry of ICTs and Information being at the same place here in Chivi, which is in sync with President Mnangagwa’s philosophy that no one and no place should be left behind.’’
Dr Muswere said President Mnangagwa spearheaded the digitalisation programme to make sure all parts of Zimbabwe receive radio and television waves.
This has resulted in the licencing of various independent radio and television stations, including community and campus radio stations.
“It is crucial for us to realise that universal access to information is a cornerstone of development and as a country we are riding on developments in the media landscape,” said Dr Muswere.
“These include the operationalisation of 14 community radio stations and eight campus radio stations dotted across the country to disseminate information in all parts of the country.
“This include places like here in Chivi and this also involves building of more base stations to make sure all areas are covered in terms of reception and this also covers social media, so there is a lot that has been done by the Second Republic to make sure this country has requisite investment to promote information dissemination.’’
Dr Muswere had underscored the value the Second Republic attaches to make sure all Zimbabweans had access to information.
He said the need to ensure all Zimbabweans had access to information was why Government has been unrelenting in the quest for making sure there was affordable internet services.
Dr Muswere hailed President Mnangagwa’s administration for creating the right conditions for the ICT and broadcasting sectors to flourish via the Zimbabwe is open for business mantra.
He said requisite legal instruments have also been put in place to ensure safe and secure ICT systems including safe and secure utilisation of ICT systems.
“This is why the Government is unrelenting in the provision of affordable internet in all parts of the country in fulfilment of His Excellency, President ED Mnangagwa’s vision of leaving no one and no place behind,’’ he said.
Dr Muswere said Government treated access to information as a basic human right.
“Undoubtedly, access to information is now a basic human right just like any other human rights,” said Dr Muswere.
“The Government is working with key stakeholders in creating an informed nation. It is crucial for us to realise that access to information is a cornerstone of development and as a country we are riding on developments in the media landscape.”
The Minister said the scourge of disinformation and misinformation was the flip side of improved access to information.
“Worth noting, however is that while access to information has been enhanced, so too has misinformation and disinformation,” he said.
“False information has been peddled across the globe, leading to unnecessary panic and mayhem in the worst of scenarios.
“It is, therefore, important to be guided by ethics despite being under constant barrage of misinformation and disinformation.’’
He urged Zimbabweans to refrain from abusing access to information, saying if used recklessly the media was a weapon that could sow seeds of conflict.
Dr Muswere urged the media to amplify the country’s efforts to rebuild the economy, engage and re-engage with the international community.
He said drug and substance abuse was now a menace and assured Zimbabweans that Government would relentlessly fight the vice until it was crushed.