At the beginning of June, the Embassy in Harare, together with UD FMR and local partners from the journalism and media sectors, hosted a virtual roundtable focusing on the role of the media in a democracy. The aim of the meeting was to create a platform for an open discussion on media freedom and freedom of expression in Zimbabwe. The discussion was part of the Embassy’s Drive for Democracy, and the participants were welcomed by Minister for International Development Cooperation Peter Eriksson.
The discussion was opened by Ambassador Åsa Pehrson and was followed by a video greeting from Mr Eriksson that was specifically directed to those attending the meeting. Among the topics Mr Eriksson touched upon were the shrinking democratic space in both Europe and Africa, and how the investigative work of journalists is a cornerstone of a democratic society. Johan Hallenborg from UD FMR then described Sweden’s global efforts, with support to different types of initiatives to safeguard democracy.
The roundtable then moved on to presentations and a discussion on the Zimbabwean media sector, which became quite lively. Most participants agreed that the most extensive and long-term consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic were not health-related but instead concerned who will control free public debate in the future. The COVID-19 pandemic has also accelerated the transition to digital news flows and solutions, and questions were raised about how to ensure access to information for the large part of the population that lack digital connectivity.
In addition to the Embassy, UD FMR and representatives of the media sector in Zimbabwe, officials working on media support at the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and the EU delegation in Harare also took part.
Author: Lina Bergqvist