Journalists have been called upon to exercise their freedom of expression in fighting human rights abuses because the right to freedom of expression drives other human rights of the constituents they serve.
In the recent Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) organized press discussion held on May 6 2023 in commemoration of World Press freedom day (WPFD), media lecturer Dr Last Alfandika said media plays a significant role in fighting against human rights abuses by covering stories that expose acts of human rights violations.
“The media plays a significant role in fighting against human rights abuses and promotes human rights by exposing human rights violations and empowering people to take action because people learn from the media,” said Dr Alfandika.
He also said journalists need a free media where they express and report on rights violations without interference.
“Journalists can only be able expose human rights violations and can only empower people to take action only if they are able to exercise the freedom of expression and opinions without interference. Information should be accessible to everyone because without information, people lack knowledge. Knowledge is power and it supports free media.
“Journalists need a free space where information is accessible because access to information is a fundamental right that helps them express their concerns over human rights violations. Access to information does not only empower journalist but also help people understand the important aspects of human rights and help them in making informed decisions. If people lack information, they lack knowledge whilst knowledge is the power that enables people to exercise and fight for their rights.
“Free media helps people with national and international information which gives them the ability to respond to laws, policies, events around them and also the human rights violations,” said Dr Alfandika.
Speaking at the same event, Masvingo based legal practitioner advocate Yolander Chandata said media freedom seems to exist only on paper as there is continuous persecution of journalists in Zimbabwe.
“On paper, there is media freedom but practically it seems as if there is no media freedom in Zimbabwe because at times journalists face persecution and hate speech especially when they are reporting on political matters, for example Hopewell Chin’ono being persecuted for exposing corruption and Blessed Mhlanga being unlawfully persecuted for allegedly taking pictures at a polling station.
“Such persecution of media practitioners shows that media freedom needs a lot of improvements as journalists are not executing their duty without fear of persecution,” added Chandata.
She also urged journalists to practice their work within the confines of the law saying that is the only way they could work without much interference.
Jounalists were also urged to avoid use of unscrupulous means to source for information as that could aalso infringe other people’s rights.
The meeting was attended by a number of local journalists from all media houses.