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Submissions to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Media, Information and Publicity
Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe
July 07, 2011


The Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) was formerly established in 2007 by media stakeholders who had correctly recognized a need to uphold the highest ethical and professional standards in the journalism and media profession in Zimbabwe. It was also established with the express aim of presenting to the public and policy makers the full possibility that the media was and remains capable of regulating its professional conduct without resort to criminal charges against members of the profession by the public or the government. It presently has the support of all the private and state controlled media houses in Zimbabwe .It is also important to note at this early juncture that self regulation of the media is globally considered to be best democratic practice by the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). It is also a principle that is accepted by media stakeholders in African states such as South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya as well as by the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights.

Zimbabwe and Media Self Regulation

As highlighted in the previous section of this presentation, the VMCZ was formerly launched in 2007. The media stakeholders that launched the VMCZ had found it necessary to do so based on the premise that it was best democratic practice to formalize self regulation for the media. This was against a backdrop of the government's regulatory body, the then Media and Information Commission which in terms of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) had the prerogative of registering and de-registering media houses. The enabling act AIPPA also had clauses within it that criminalized journalists who would be deemed to have written stories not palatable to the political persuasions of the government of the day.

Since the formation of the inclusive government in 2009, the statutory regulatory framework of the media has been altered through the promulgation of Constitutional Amendment Number 19 which established a constitutional Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC). Since the appointment of Commissioners to the ZMC, the print media has expanded significantly through the licensing and publishing of at least 8 regular print newspapers, be they on a daily or a weekly basis. This is a development that VMCZ welcomes and congratulates the ZMC for making a reality.

The VMCZ, in congratulating the ZMC, is however aware of the intentions of the same to proceed with the establishment of a statutory media council in terms of AIPPA. The VMCZ by virtue of its mandate politely differs with the ZMC and is seeking continual engagement with the ZMC on the matter. The reason for the disagreement with the ZMC are also premised on the fact that there has been no official announcement to the effect that AIPPA is the relevant and enabling Act for the enforcement of media regulation and it has not yet been subjected to complete review either by Parliament or by the relevant Ministry. It is also a law that the inclusive government through its Kariba Media Stakeholders Conference held in 2009, has indicated that it intends to review and possibly replace.

It is therefore the VMCZ's firm persuasion that the ZMC in tandem with the Parliament of Zimbabwe and the Government of Zimbabwe, need to revisit and repeal AIPPA and seek to ensure the democratization of Zimbabwe's media environment. In the same vein, the Government and Parliament of Zimbabwe need to take into account the democratic importance of media self regulation in the policy alternatives that are eventually placed on the table.

In order to further a holistic review of the media laws in the country and with an understanding of the oversight role of Parliament, the VMCZ makes the following submissions to this Honourable Parliamentary Committee on Media, Information and Publicity

Defining Media Self Regulation

Broadly defined, media self regulation refers to the democratic, professional and independent regulation of the media by practitioners, stakeholders and members of the public as represented by various sectors, in order to promote ethical, fair, balanced and accountable reporting by journalists and media houses.

Media Self Regulation as an ancillary to the enjoyment of the Right to Freedom of Expression and Access to Information

Universally, media self regulation is premised on the enjoyment of the constitutional right to receive and impart information. In the case of Zimbabwe self regulation is premised on Section 20 of our Constitution which guarantees freedom of expression as well as access to information. The VMCZ, in promoting and executing media self regulation is promoting as far as is democratically possible the enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression and access to information without undue hindrance.

Zimbabwe's Undemocratic Enabling Acts of Media Regulation

In the case of Zimbabwe, the enabling Acts of media regulation are multiple in that while there is AIPPA, there are other Acts of Parliament that impinge of the enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression and access to information. These Acts include the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), the Censorship and Entertainment Control Act as well as the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA). Of particular importance to the VMCZ is AIPPA primarily because it continues to criminalize the journalistic profession (AIPPA, Section 42b,42c, 42d) where it prefers statutory fines with an option of imprisonment of journalists who the ZMC and the statutory media council deem to have violated the code of conduct. It is such provisions that instill fear, self censorship and intimidation in the media profession. Such provisions also severely undermine the enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression and access to information as provided for in Section 20 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.

It is the VMCZ's position that AIPPA be repealed and that this Honourable Committee Portfolio Committee ask the Ministry of Media, Information and Publicity as to what progress has been made in reviewing all media laws in the country. The VMCZ also humbly asks that this Honourable Committee take into account the democratic significance of the principle of media self regulation as opposed to statutory regulation that limits the enjoyment of the right to freedom on expression and access to information.

The Advantages of Self Regulation of the Media

  • Self regulation of the media has the following distinct advantages:
  • It guarantees media accountability to the primary consumer of media products, the public. It does this by way of creating confidence in members of the public that whatever the media produces it is based on fair, balanced and verifiable facts.
  • It promotes democratic practice, culture and understanding within the media profession and within the public due to the fact that adjudication and judgment of the media is done by consensus without recourse to criminal charges or vindictiveness.
  • It protects the editorial independence of the media and journalists from undue interference from any societal sector.
  • It promotes professionalism, ethics and accountability of journalists.
  • It promotes the enjoyment of the constitutional right of all citizens to freedom of expression and access to information.
  • It does not induce legal costs for the media or members of the public who seek redress for stories they deem to be unfair or defamatory.
  • It lessens pressure on the judiciary.
  • It helps readers access the media.

The Disadvantages of State Regulation of the Media

  • State regulation of the media leads to the criminalization of the press as well as the right to freedom of expression.
  • State regulation of the media undermines the editorial independence of the press through undue interference via the threat of prosecution. This induces self censorship of the press and undermines fair, accurate and balanced reporting.
  • State regulation of the media also undermines the enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression and access to information in that it continually seeks to proscribe how that right should be enjoyed, a process which is at the behest of a government in power.
  • State regulation also leads to governments seeking to own the media, a process which undermines the capacity of citizens to access information outside of government propaganda.
  • State regulation of the media leads to less public accountability of the government and government related institutions due to the fact that they create rules to protect themselves from media or public scrutiny.
  • State regulation of the media is dependent solely on the political party in power and is therefore subject to the politicization of the media.
  • State regulation of the media leads to the involvement of state security services in policing journalists and arbitrarily detaining or harassing them as has been the case in Zimbabwe since the promulgation of AIPPA.
  • State regulation of the media leads to the exclusion of civil society and members of the public in promoting media accountability. This is done mainly through the politicized appointments of members of statutory media regulatory bodies.

The relationship of the VMCZ with the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC)

The VMCZ has a policy of continual engagement with the ZMC. It however differs with the ZMC on the issue of the statutory media council provided for by AIPPA. We have urged the ZMC to seek a holistic review of AIPPA and other laws that affect the media. The VMCZ shall continue to carry out its mandate as outlined in our constitution and as supported by media stakeholders and civil society organizations.


The VMCZ would like to express its profound gratitude to Honourable Members of the Parliamentary Portfolio committee on Media, Information and Publicity for allowing it the opportunity to make submissions on the importance of self regulation. It is the hope and prayer of the VMCZ that the Honourable Committee will look into the matter of self regulation with the same amount of seriousness and commitment that the Committee has demonstrated by inviting us to make submissions. The VMCZ also humbly submits that this Honourable Committee considers the repealing of AIPPA and the embracing of self regulation of the media if all Zimbabweans are to enjoy the right to freedom of expression and access to information without undue state interference. Self regulation is not about the media seeking to run away from public accountability, in fact it is an strong indication that journalists are committed to the promotion of the same said accountability, professionalism and ethical reporting. All in aid of promoting a democratic culture where freedom of expression and freedom of the media are seen not as a threat but a cornerstone of the realization of democracy in Zimbabwe.


Mr. A Muchadehama
VMCZ Board

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