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declares sections of Broadcasting Act unconstitutional
of Southern Africa - Zimbabwe Chapter (MISA-Zimbabwe)
September 30, 2003
the Broadcasting Services Act
Court, on 19 September, declared unconstitutional certain sections
of the Broadcasting Services Act that gave the Minister of Information
and Publicity power to license would-be broadcasters.
Court struck down section 6 of the Act, which makes the minister
the licensing authority. The Act reads: Subject to these regulations,
the Minister shall be the licensing authority for the purpose of
licensing any person to provide a broadcasting service or operate
as a signal carrier in Zimbabwe.
Authority of Zimbabwe which is also set in terms of the BSA can
only recommend to the minister but has no power to license applicants.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku said that the Minister
had been given too much power in deciding who can be given a license.
hold the view that section 6 of the Act is unconstitutional because
it totally subordinates the regulatory authority to the minister
in the process of granting broadcasting licenses," said Chidyausiku.
The court ruled
that the section seriously undermined the authority and independence
of the regulatory body. The Supreme Court also struck down the whole
of section 9 of the BSA, which set restrictions in relation to issuing
of licences. Section 9 read that:
(1) Only one
licence shall be issued to provide a national broadcasting service
in addition to the national broadcasting service provided by the
Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation or any other public broadcaster
established by law.
(2) Not more than two signal carrier licences shall be issued
(3) a broadcasting licence and a signal carrier licence shall
not be issued to the same applicant.
The ruling was
made after Capital Radio, an aspiring private station that was closed
down in 2000, applied to the Supreme Court to have sections of the
law declared unconstitutional. The government has so far refused
to grant the private station a licence. No private broadcasters
are yet to be licensed since the BSA was passed in 2001.
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