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Journalists urged to promote access to information

Journalists and members of the Civic Society Organizations (CSOs) have been encouraged to raise awareness on the Freedom of Information Act, to enable citizens to hold authorities accountable and to help curb corruption.

This came out of a community media indaba held by Community Podium in Bulawayo on Wednesday which addressed access to information for local development.

In an interview with CITE, Zibusiso Dube, the Programs and Campaigns Officer at Accountability Lab Zimbabwe, said access to information is a crucial component of accountability.

He explained it’s how citizens, journalists, and civil society organisations understand what the government, its various departments, and local authorities are doing.

Dube said journalists should also ensure they inform members of the public about the Act in a language they understand best.

“Journalists and CSOs have a huge responsibility to ensure that people have access to the right information coming from public bodies,” he said. “They need to summarise crucial information from Hansards, full council minutes, and other documents from public entities so that they can disseminate it in the language best understood by people. This will help them participate fully in public processes.”

“At this stage, where we have a fairly new legislation, the Freedom of Information Act that came into being in 2020, journalists and CSOs need to publicise and raise awareness on that law,” Dube continued. “This will allow people to fully exercise their right to information and do what is stipulated in that law to demand and request the necessary information on issues affecting their livelihoods from the authorities.”

Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) Public Information Compliance Manager, Brian Tomo, said the major thrust of the Act is to promote transparency and protect people’s rights.

He explained that they are currently rolling out campaigns nationwide to ensure everyone understands the details of the Act and how it can be used for the country’s development.

“The Freedom of Information Act is a legislation enacted to repeal AIPPA,” Tomo said. “Its major thrust is to promote transparency and also to protect people’s rights. Communities in Zimbabwe will benefit a lot from this law because now they have the right to access information. If they do not get a favorable response, they can come to ZMC and appeal. Ultimately, we will engage the involved entity so that the aggrieved party can get the required information.”

“Journalists have a role to ensure this information reaches far and wide,” Tomo concluded. “We want those at the grassroots level to understand. They are also encouraged to ensure that this information is packaged in a language that people best understand.”

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