More plaudits for Freedom of Information Act

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Nhau Mangirazi

Women, girls and media professionals have given Freedom to Information Act a thumps up saying the new law provides for ways for access to information and citizen’s rights.

They further applauded the Act saying that positive strides made legally must not be reversed.

Media advocate Rashweat Mukundu said the Act is good for journalists to use and access information, pushing for more accountability of both public and private institutions.

He added: “There is also a need for citizen awareness in the use of the law in pursuit of their rights.”

Women and Aids Support Network director Anna Colleta Penduka concurred saying the Act is going to enhance information dissemination to diverse groups of people.

“The channeling of the information needs proper collation and packaged in simple language for various people to understand,” she said.

Penduka said journalists must be well equipped and trained on “various thematic topics so as to report responsibly.”

Young Women Christian Association secretary general Muchanyara Mukamuri said the Act repealing Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) is a welcome development that ensures freedom of expression as enshrined constitutionally.

“It becomes very helpful to have information easily accessible in the public domain, helping tracking performance on accountability and transparency relating to information that is of public interest.

“It will give confidence for the general public and other private or public institutions that they can operate in an environment where there are no restrictions in information sharing but this has to come with responsibility of fact and evidence based reporting.”

He, however, warned that there was need to guard against abuse of such laws.

“We need to be responsible citizens that engage in truthful practices reporting and sharing accurate information that helps Zimbabwe to achieve its milestones in a peaceful environment,” he said.

Chinhoyi-based independent journalist and media trainer James Muonwa said the Act may help freelance reporters to get information as and when it is required to get facts and figures accurately.

“Of late, independent media including freelancers failed to access information from public institutions including local councils, municipalities and cities as well as parastatals that deliberately conceal information for well researched stories.

“This is a disservice to the citizens that must be well informed without fear or favor,” he said.

Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa last week launch Freedom of Information Act campaign.

Mutsvangwa said citizens must use the Act to their advantage.

“The new law provides for the obligation on entities to have a written information disclosure policy. The law also provides for the provision of information in a language requested by the applicant.

“These practical provisions if well-resourced and are made know to the citizens and journalists, will ensure that citizens enjoy their constitutional freedoms and rights to information, and freedom of expression,” she said.

Tag a Life International (TaLi) director Nyaradzai Mashayamombe said the Act empowers citizens on their right to information.

The campaign implemented by Fojo Media Institute and International Media Support with funding from Sweden Embassy.

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