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VMCZ statement on the comments attributed to Mr. G. Charamba
Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe
July 22, 2011

The Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) notes the unfortunate statements made to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Media, Information and Communications Technologies by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Media, Information and Publicity, Mr. G. Charamba. The statements attributed to Mr. Charamba in The Herald of 22 July 2011 are not reflective of the truth, particularly where he makes reference to the VMCZ. The VMCZ is not an organization that is awaiting 'baptism' by the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) or any other body. The VMCZ, having been in existence since 2007, is a testimony to the enjoyment of the right of media stakeholders and citizens to freely associate and assemble as provided for in Section 21 of Zimbabwe's Constitution. In exercising this right to associate and assemble, media stakeholders established the VMCZ in order to protect and enhance another fundamental human right as guaranteed in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and Section 20 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. This right being the right of all citizens to freedom of expression and access to information.

The mandate of the VMCZ is therefore self-regulation of the media in order to allow the greatest enjoyment of the right of all citizens to freedom of expression and access to information. It is a mandate that does not require 'baptism'.

Where Mr. Charamba is cited as saying that the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) allows the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) to form a statutory Media Council by 'consensus' the VMCZ can only express regret at the misleading nature of such a statement. AIPPA is a law that has continually been used to curtail freedom of expression through the mandatory registration of journalists/media houses; the arrest of journalists and the closure of media houses. To state that the ZMC can arrive at a 'consensus' with media stakeholders is to be dishonest about the full negative import of AIPPA on media freedom and freedom of expression in Zimbabwe.

Given this narrative of the usage of AIPPA against media freedom in our country, the VMCZ reiterates that it is of paramount importance that the Government and the Parliament of Zimbabwe, move much more purposefully toward the repealing of this undemocratic Act of Parliament sooner rather than later. This is regardless of the outcome of the constitutional reform process, which the inclusive government has misleadingly begun to refer to on a regular basis as an excuse as to why there is no progress on issues such as media reform.

The VMCZ is also aware of the Kariba Media Conference that Mr. Charamba is cited as referring to in the Herald. The full report of the Kariba Conference is however still not a public document and where it is suggested that among it's resolutions is the promise of a Media Practitioners Bill, the VMCZ insists that such a proposition should be guided by a firm understanding of the principle of self regulation of the media as democratic practice and thorough media stakeholder and public consultation.

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