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The Zimbabwean media yesterday commemorated World Press Freedom Day on May 3 in the midst of renewed assault on its freedom and therefore with very little to cheer.

Besides the sad fact that they remain haunted by repressive legislation, journalists were denied the freedom to hold the traditional commemoration march by police for reasons bordering on the mundane.

Freedom of the Press, like all freedoms, is obviously a relative term. Nobody, even national presidents, enjoys absolute freedom.

Nonetheless there are principles of freedom that we must defend to the death.

It must also always be understood that journalists, editors and publishers are human and therefore liable to error, prejudice and misjudgement.

It is for this reason that legislation such as criminal defamation that seeks to criminalise journalists at work must be repealed.

You will find that even where freedom of expression is constitutionally guaranteed, such repulsive pieces of legislation are often invoked against critical journalists. In Zimbabwe, the notion of defamation is seldom used by the private individual and much more often by public figures.

Journalists have been charged for reporting on the ill health of political leaders who would have us believe that they are some infallible gods and therefore not susceptible to disease.

Media houses have been harassed for daring to report on the academic performances of and or qualifications of the wives of powerful people, even though the correctness of the reports are never in fact challenged.

But as we fight for true freedom of the press in pursuit of democracy and respect of human rights, we must never lose sight of the fact that repression of media freedom in Zimbabwe has not emanated only from the State.

Some of it has been self-inflicted by journalists themselves.

There are journalists who do not check their facts diligently before reporting. There are also times when they have deliberately tinkered with facts in order to produce a particular effect.

We must be the first to condemn such practices since they provide forces hostile to media freedom with the excuse of harassing or banishing the media altogether.

Source : Zimbabwe Standard

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