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Parliament moves motion on media law reform
June 22, 2011

The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Media, Information and Communication Technology this week recommended broadcasting and media law reforms in tandem with the Global Political Agreement (GPA) requirements following investigations on the state of public media in Zimbabwe. The portfolio committee also recommended the transformation of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) from being a state broadcaster into a genuine public broadcaster in line with regional instruments.

"There were concerns that ZBC was wholly controlled by the Minister of Media, Information and Publicity who appoints the body and issues directives to the board and management and that it was highly as a state controlled broadcaster, serving the interests of the state rather than those of the public," the committee's report noted.

The committee also called for an end to ZBC monopoly, observing that "The current monopoly being enjoyed by the ZBC was regarded as incompatible with the right to freedom of expression as Article V (of the GPA) obliges the state to encourage a diverse, independent private broadcasting sector." the reports reads.

The report also castigated the current media laws noting that they infringe on the rights of journalists particularly the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), which purports to give journalists access to information held by a public bodies when in reality there are a lot of restrictions hindering them from getting that information.

"In a way it curtails information on mismanagement or fraud in parastatals, accountability by public officials and curtails the media's watchdog role function to expose corruption in the interest of the public," says the report.

The committee also noted grievances by editors that punitive measures against scribes accused of writing falsehoods were too harsh. The portfolio committee noted that retraction of the story by the editor correcting the position and admitting that they lied, was more damaging and adequate punishment than sending the journalist to jail.

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