ZwNews Chief Correspondent

Media practitioners in Zimbabwe have been called upon to approach parliament in order to make it easier for journalists to get information, primarily from public institutions.

Deliberating during the commemorations marking the International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI), hosted by the Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA)’s Zimbabwe chapter in Bulawayo recently, journalists said public institutions were withholding information, when requested by the media, making it hard for the ‘fourth estate’ to fulfill its mandate.

Giving a presentation, Legal Resource Foundation official Cedrick Dube, said it is feasible for media practitioners to approach government through parliament to review some of the laws governing access to information.

“It is possible to engage, petition, or call on the parliament to revisit some of the laws relating to access to Information for journalists to effectively carry out their duties,” said Dube.

Dube who was presenting from the access to information legal perspective said though in some cases, access to information can be legally limited, withholding public information derail the media’s mandate to inform the public.

It was noted that the process that one needs to go through in order to get information is long, winding, and daunting. During the deliberations journalists said when one requests for information, he/she is told to email the questions, and in most cases the questions are never responded to.

Meanwhile, MISA strongly believe that information assists business and citizens to make informed decisions and choices on matters that have a bearing on their operations and lives.

Business thrive where relevant information is readily available, and MISA warns that the secretive and reluctance by organizations to give out relevant information risk standing in the way of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s mantra ‘Zimbabwe is open for business.’

At times, journalists are forced to resort to unnamed sources, who would have agreed to divulge information on the condition of being promised not to be named. In yet some other cases newspapers are forced to print clauses like ‘at the time of going to print, no comment has been received from the relevant authority, as questions emailed had not been responded to.’ Though not ideal such clauses; at least help to let readers know that efforts were made to present both sides in the story.

The IDUAI, is commemorated 28 September, and it was proclaimed by the United Nations to promote the universal access to information, in line with the universal human rights. The commemorations were held under the theme ‘celebrating the constitutional rights to access to information, and was graced journalists from various media outlets.