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Bere says transitional justice still regarded an elite matter

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By Tafadzwa Muranganwa

National Transitional Justice Working Group (NTJWG) vice chairperson Dzikamai Bere has lamented the continued existence of erroneous public perceptions of transitional justice as an elite issue and yet it was a matter of national importance.

He was speaking at a media seminar in Harare this week to capacitate local journalists on how to write extensively and knowledgeably on transitional justice.

“Transitional justice is still an elite issue. There is an imperious need to increase the quantity and quality in transitional justice,” said Bere, who is also substantive Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) director.

The rights defender said current coverage on transitional justice in Zimbabwe was not sufficient and hence the need to foster rapport with the media personalities.

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“The media shapes our lives every day and there is the need to understand goals of transitional justice.

“So, this summit seeks to build existing relationships and for transitional justice matters transfer from conference rooms to living rooms of ordinary citizens,” he added.

Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zimbabwe Legal and ICT Policy Officer, Nompilo Simanje referred to Section 61 of the Constitution on media freedom and freedom of expression that gives media practitioners the right to seek, receive and impart information.

“In the case of promoting transitional justice, the media plays a key role in facilitating access to information by the public.

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“The citizens have a clear right to receive fair, unbiased, and divergent views as espoused in Section 62 of the Constitution.

“As a lawyer, let me allude to the case of Firine Trust and Ors vs ZBC and Ors. It’s clear from this case study that journalism is one of the oldest and noblest professions with a rich body of rules and ethics.

“The media by the powers vested in them through law and social contract, have the capacity to make or break a nation.

“Media can foster democracy or stifle it. Journalists should guard against skewed reporting that leads to polarity and threatens national peace,” Simanje said.

She implored the media to uphold ethical and professional standards to avoid fuelling hate speech that is detrimental to peace and development.

“In dealing with these issues, the media should report fairly, completely and accurately. They should at all times be impartial, and afford fair opportunity for the presentation of divergent views and dissenting opinions. The media should not promote violence or hatred against any class of persons.

“Avoid language that encourages racial, ethnic, or religious prejudice or hatred; or encourages or incites violence, or is likely to lead to undue public contempt towards any class of person in Zimbabwe.

“Avoid opinion pieces including guest writers that disgorge hate and inflammatory language.”

The NTJWG is a platform established by 46 local civil society organisations representing various transitional justice stakeholders to provide the interface between the organisations and the official transitional justice processes in Zimbabwe.

The National Peace and Reconciliation Commission, which is one of the independent commissions mandated by the constitution to lead the process of transitional justice among many other peace and reconciliation initiatives, is viewed as too tame to confront the issues.

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