John Masuku, a seasoned and senior radio broadcaster, producer and journalist in Zimbabwe, and a member of the international community of ROM – Renewing Our Minds friends, sent us today the following statement issued jointly by a number of prominent media organizations in Zimbabwe. Since the Zimbabwean Government has shut down schools, banks, roads, transportation, media, newspapers and the Internet across the country a few days ago, and since it is hard to know how much information can be circulated in and out of Zimbabwe at this time, we are using our platform to join many friends across the world who are this time doing whatever they can to make sure the news of the Zimbabwe shutdown is known internationally. So, friends, read the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ) Statement on the Internet Shutdown, and spread the word:
The Media Alliance of Zimbabwe is concerned by the internet blockade as directed through a warrant issued by the Minister of National Security in the President’s Office (according to a message sent by Econet Wireless to subscribers), which has resulted in citizens being deprived of critical information in the midst of the ongoing crisis. The internet shutdown has enormously affected critical sectors including health, education and business that rely on online services to transact and operate.
The situation is compounded by the incapacitation of the media to carry out their function to produce and disseminate news and information for the public. Public and private media operations have been crippled as they rely on the internet for sourcing news and for communicating.
The internet is an integral part of people’s lives as they use the platform to access information, exercise their right to free expression and to communicate. Without the internet all sectors will be ground to a halt. Sections 61 and 62 of the Constitution expressly guarantee citizens with rights to free expression and access to information, which enables them to make informed decisions. Depriving citizens of these rights only serve to worsen the crisis as the general populace is not informed of what is currently obtaining in the country as there is an information blackout. As a result there is growing uncertainty, which may lead to alarm and despondency instead of calming the crisis.
Moreover, the government and the private sector have potentially lost revenue as most transactions are conducted electronically. As such this drastic intervention is not in sync with government’s mantra that “Zimbabwe is open for business”. With this blockade, Zimbabwe is effectively closed for business.
In light of this, MAZ thereby demands that government:
1) Respects the Constitution, specifically provisions around access to information, media freedom and freedom of expression
2) Urgently restores internet services
The Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ) is an alliance of media support organisations including the Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe, Media Institute of Southern Africa (Zimbabwe chapter), Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ), Zimbabwe National Editors’ Forum (ZINEF), Gender and Media Connect (GMC), the Media Centre, the Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (ZACRAS), the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) and the African Community Publishing Development Trust (ACPDT). MAZ work focuses on four key areas which are:
• Freedom of Expression
• Right to Information
• Media Freedom
• Media Law and policy Reform
The MAZ Secretariat, Programmes Manager, Nigel Nyamutumbu, +263 772 501 557, firstname.lastname@example.org, Skype – nigel.kabila
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