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Condemns operations of state broadcaster
Extracted from Monthly alerts Digest- June 2004
July 07, 2004
9 June, the Zimbabwe parliament presented a damning report on the
operations of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings (ZBH) generally
known as Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC).
The report by
parliamentarians, constituting the Portfolio Committee on Transport
and Communications represent a major breakthrough in the quest to
have the state broadcaster transformed into a true public broadcaster.
The Portfolio committee, made up of MPís from the ruling, ZANU PF
and opposition MDC also represents a breakthrough for bi-partisanship
politics in a parliament, traditionally divided along party lines
instead of focus on the merits or lack of, of issues under discussion.
The report compiled after months of consultations, interviews and
visits to ZBH installations and studios in Harare, Gweru and Bulawayo
brings back arguments on the need to de-politise the role of the
state broadcaster and focus on real national and not party issues.
In its findings
the committee noted that ZBH is not only financially broke but has
obsolete equipment that makes its definition of as state broadcaster
fall short, as millions of Zimbabweans cannot access its programmes.
The committee criticized not only the content of ZBH programmes
but the whole management structure which vests power with the Minister
further noted that "ÖIf ZBH was to execute it public mandate
effectively the board and editorial team should be independent,"
"The issue of board and editorial independence was raised with
Dr Gono (former board Chairman of ZBC), who informed your committee
that the board was very independent and could not act against its
Asked on editorial
independence Dr Gono said "Öthe board did not interfere with
the editorial content of the Corporation. However he conceded that
the issue of editorial independence was a tricky one, the world
over, but he would not elaborate on the tricky part".
In its findings
the committee noted that the ZBH was infact on the brink of collapse
and could not carry out its mandate as expected. ZBH has for several
months failed to pay its staff on time and its equipment has been
confiscated by creditors.
Though Minister Jonathan Moyo defended his department saying it
does not interfere with editorial policy nor management of the ZBH,
the laws under which the ZBH is operating makes such arguments unconvincing.
Laws such as the Broadcasting Services Act, ZBC Commercialization
Act have vested all powers in the Minister of Information to do
virtually anything he deems.
noted that this whole structure of governance of the ZBH needs to
be changed. This cannot be done without re-looking at the current
media laws from the BSA, ZBC Commercialization to the Access to
Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA). MPís further
recommended that, the ZBH, "...serve the whole nation regardless
of political, religious, tribal, economic and professional affiliation".
Of key importance in the recommendation of the Parliamentarians
that is the "autonomy of the ZBH board and senior management
be guaranteed. This can only be achieved by involving a wide spectrum
of other sectors in the management of the ZBH and appointment of
its board and senior staff".
by parliamentarians fall in line with the criticism and recommendations
that organizations such as MISA-Zimbabwe have made in the past and
continue to advocate for through the "Open the Airwaves Campaign".
It must be noted that without a democratic legal framework that
manages the broadcasting arena, the ZBH would continue to suffer
and the detriment of the rest of society. If the recommendations
of the MPís are taken seriously ZBH would markedly improve, not
only its programming but image amongst members of society who generally
view it with suspicion.
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