A crucial conference to lay the groundwork for the reform of Zimbabwe's
troubled media was cancelled at the last minute on Friday, dashing
hopes the inclusive government is ready to tackle some of the key
targets it set itself under the Global Political Agreement (GPA), writes Kholwani Nyathi in The Standard.

The Ministry of Media, Information and Publicity said the conference, which would have run between Saturday and Sunday had been rescheduled after Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe lost her mother.

But sources said Zanu PF loyalists had blocked the indaba over fears that the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was moving too fast to reform the local media crippled by some of the most oppressive legislation in the world.

"The death of Khupe's mother came as a very convenient excuse," said the source. "But there is a lot of resistance from the Zanu PF side and the old guard within the ministry itself."

The resistance, sources said, was also fuelled by topics that had been proposed for discussion such as the draconian Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa).

Renowned media experts were also expected to lead discussions on the structure, role and management of public media in an emerging democracy and the state of the media in Zimbabwe.

President Robert Mugabe's previous administration was accused of closing down the media space and using the public media to promote hate speech.

Mugabe's spokesman George Charamba and Minister of Media, Information and Publicity Webster Shamu, have often attacked the private media over the way it covers issues.

Some of the organisations that had been invited to the conference have clashed with government over its reluctance to guarantee freedom of expression.

Deputy Media, Information and Publicity Minister, Jameson Timba, who was organising the event, insisted the cancellation was as a result of the bereavement.

He said he was hopeful the conference would be held soon to tackle the pressing issues.

Click here to read the full report, posted on The Standard's website.