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media laws do not meet benchmarks for enactment of national ICT
October 01, 2008
notes current efforts by the Attorney-General's Office to
develop an Information Communication Technologies (ICT) Bill through
the circulation of a questionnaire which among other considerations
seeks to identify shortfalls in ICT related legislation in Zimbabwe.
The Posts and
Telecommunications Act, Access
to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and the
Services Act (BSA) are identified as some of the laws that will
be taken into consideration towards the development of a national
ICT Bill. The questionnaire therefore seeks to establish whether
the three laws in question have overlapping functions and whether
it is possible to consolidate them into one Act.
It is MISA-Zimbabwe's
strong submission that in their present state the laws in question
and BSA and AIPPA in particular, do not even meet the benchmarks
for the enactment of a progressive and democratic national ICT legislation
more so as it relates to the establishment of an independent converged
broadcasting, ICT, cellular and telecommunications regulatory authority.
The long term
viability of the broadcasting, telecommunications and ICT sectors
lies in securing the independence of their regulatory frameworks.
The argument for the independence of regulators in the field of
telecoms, broadcasting and technological convergence is guided by
several regional and continental covenants such as the African Charter
on Broadcasting (ACB), African Union (AU) Declaration on Principles
of Freedom of Expression in Africa and the SADC Protocol on Culture,
Information and Sport.
The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA)
is hailed as a model independent regulator on the continent. It
is MISA-Zimbabwe's argument that the manner in which the Zimbabwean
regulators namely the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) under
the BSA, the Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of
Zimbabwe, and Media and Information Commission under AIPPA, are
constituted makes them susceptible to direct political interference.
AIPPA through the MIC imposes statutory regulation in breach of
the Banjul Declaration on the Principles of Freedom of Expression
in Africa while BAZ is hostage to the whims and dictates of the
Executive in violation of the African Charter on Broadcasting.
These bodies need to be replaced by a truly independent communications
regulator that will oversee these sectors. This new regulator's
independence must be guaranteed by the law and must have financial,
structural and functional independence in order to regulate the
sector effectively and impartially for the development of the ICT
sector to be guaranteed.
It is MISA-Zimbabwe's
submission that regulation should be undertaken for purposes of
promoting freedom of speech and access to information. The extent
to which a country is said to be democratic is the extent to which
it is seen to actively promote free expression and communication
between the people and their leaders through such institutions as
We posit that
one of the ways of promoting free expression and communication is
through the creation of an enabling environment for media freedom
through, among other considerations, establishing a truly independent
regulator to regulate the country's communications sector
in the public interest, free of any political, commercial or individual
It is therefore,
MISA- Zimbabwe's humble submissions that the Attorney General
Office and the government in general in its quest to come up with
a national ICT Bill should be guided by the following principles
that govern the operations of independent regulatory bodies:
- there should
be clear separation of powers, with the government being responsible
for policy development, an independent body being responsible
for the implementation of policies and regulating the sector whilst
privately owned media concentrates on service provision.
should be done in the public interest, with the aim of: creating
and maintaining order in the sector, establishing fair competition
and quality service, promoting free speech, access to information
as well as consumer protection.
distinct legal mandate of the regulator's duties and responsibilities,
free of ministerial, commercial or private control.
every one, that is, the executive, legislature, civic society,
business and the general public in the appointment process of
the regulator's board.
the MISA-Zimbabwe fact
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