By Clayton Masekesa
MUTASA – Headman James Marira, from Marira Village in Mutasa Central Constituency in Manicaland province has said his community is struggling to have access to information, which is critical for development.
In an interview with this publication on Saturday, on the sidelines of a ward development committee meeting, Marira confided that the community is in a devastating drought for accessing information, making the rural community a barren news wasteland.
Marira said he is part of a community that lives in an information desert, but is now eager to see his members of community accessing information on myriad of action and events that make up a community.
Marira said: “Our sense of community and our trust in democracy at all levels suffer when news coverage and access of information is diminished.”
“Journalists who write stories in the newspapers and broadcast on radios can do a lot for the people from the rural areas because they convey information which might be relevant in our decision making as traditional leaders,” he said.
“Newspapers and radios can give us some guidelines on how we operate and we are always informed of genuine news amid the era of fake news from whats app,” Marira said.
“When local newspapers and radios and television fail to cover us then who else will cover us? Who will know what is happening in our rural backyards?” he asked.
The Mutasa Central Member of Parliament Trevor Saruwaka said he was happy to see his constituency accessing information.
He said: “Rural communities have been struggling to have their issues covered and highlighted in the press. They have been also failing to have access to information.
“If journalism and access to information are pillars of self government, these tools of democracy are not being distributed evenly, and that should be a cause for concern,” Saruwaka said.
“Journalists should get the voice from the communities who have been marginalized in terms of news coverage and information dissemination.
Journalists must help by spreading information in the outward communities to have a voice of the issues affecting our rural communities,” he said.
“Their issues have been overlooked. We also have the issue of Covid-19 within us and it is important that the journalists can hear and write some issues affecting them. It is important and incumbent upon us as journalists to bring to the fore developmental and social issues affecting the rural populace,” Saruwaka explained.
A human rights organization – Tag A Life International (TaLI) – has embarked on an awareness campaign that is aimed at ensuring that the vulnerable communities have access to information.
The organization has launched the My Freedom of Information (MFoI) Campaign that is set to empower communities on the right to access to information.
Nyaradzo Mashayamombe, founder of TaLI, said the campaign was intended to support the Freedom of Information Act that was enacted last year.
Said Mashayamombe: “This campaign is aimed at ensuring that vulnerable and marginalized communities, including women, girls, youths and those living with disabilities have access to the information they need to promote their rights.”
Mashayamombe said citizens, especially minorities and journalists, should assert their rights to access to information.
The Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services – Monica Mutsvangwa – has applauded the new Freedom of Information Act, as a comprehensive law that promotes the much-needed freedom of expression and access to information in the country.