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slam proposed media reforms
Nqaba Matshazi, The Standard (Zimbabwe)
February 03, 2013
View this article
on The Standard (Zimbabwe) website
have bemoaned the retention of a statutory body regulating the conduct
of journalism despite constitutional guarantees for freedom of the
media in the draft
were one of the key reforms ahead of elections, but media experts
fear that the new constitution was giving with one hand while taking
with the other.
Institute of Southern Africa - Zimbabwe (Misa), director Nhlanhla
Ngwenya said while there were positives to draw out from the charter,
the entrenchment of the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) contradicted
the spirit of democracy.
of a statutory media regulatory board, the Zimbabwe Media Commission,
posits contradictions to the spirit and letter of media freedom
and access to information, the draft seeks to promote," he
Ngwenya said what was
worrying was that the commission could "take disciplinary"
action against journalists it deemed to be errant.
retains the powers to take disciplinary action against journalists
deemed to have violated ethical conduct," he said. "In
a democracy, the duty of a media regulator is not to discipline
journalists or media houses but to secure an environment that would
promote free media activity."
The Misa director said
if the authorities thought there was need to have a regulator, then
the commission should be for the sole purpose of regulating the
broadcasting sector's finite frequency spectrum.
Ngwenya said he was
also worried that there was a perpetuation of state ownership of
the media, yet the charter says these outlets should be independent
of editorial control, impartial and present divergent views, arguing
that this was a contradiction in terms.
"Only a genuinely
publicly-owned media whose governance structures are transparently
established; representative of the public; accountable to parliament
and adequately insulated from political control and manipulation
can fulfill the obligations spelt out [in that section],"
Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) executive director, Takura
Zhangazha echoed similar sentiments, saying the provisions for ZMC
were most unfortunate.
"It is not preferable
to have such regulations," he said. "Such provisions
criminalise the media."
that ZMC was a product of the much loathed Access
to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa) and its
retention was cause for concern.
not see the democratic rationale of such media provisions,"
he said. "The media should be free to express themselves."
VMCZ is advocating
for voluntary media regulation rather than a statutory commission.
The council said its board was yet to meet to come up with a position
on the draft.
laws have often been derided for being too harsh and stifling free
It is hoped that the
new constitution will unshackle the media from the clutches of the
state and allow for journalists to carry out their jobs freely.
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