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VMCZ Chairman's opening remarks at meeting to review developments around self regulation of the media
Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe
September 02, 2011

Members of the Zimbabwe National Editors Forum (ZINEF)

Members of the Zimbabwe Association of Editors (ZAE)

Members of the Community Newspapers Association of Zimbabwe (CNAZ)

Representatives of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ)

Representatives of the Media Institute of Southern Africa Zimbabwe Chapter (MISA Zimbabwe)

Representatives of the Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe (MMPZ)

Representatives of the Journalistic and Media Trainers Association of Zimbabwe (JAMTAZ)

Representatives of the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ)

Representatives of the Zimbabwe Publishers Association (ZPA)

Editors here present

Members of the VMCZ Board here present

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to this half day meeting to review the principle and practice of self regulation of the media in Zimbabwe. I would like to especially thank you all for deciding to leave your very busy schedules as well as making the time to travel to Harare and to the Crowne Plaza Hotel for this meeting.

The VMCZ is of the firm persuasion that the time could not be more right for us to collectively discuss the issue of media self regulation in view of the events that have been occurring in Zimbabwe, the region and abroad. Indeed, the principles of self regulation of the media as well as the right to freedom of expression have always been under threat not only nationally but across the globe.

In Zimbabwe's instance, the formation of the VMCZ was necessitated through recognition by yourselves and other media stakeholders of the need to strengthen the enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression by embracing the principle of self regulation of the media. In this respect it is a given that as we are gathered here there is no dispute amongst us as to the credence of self-regulation as best democratic practice for the media in democratic societies. This does not however mean as proponents of such a democratic regulatory framework we should not regularly meet to review the successes and challenges that may visit us. Indeed the fact that the VMCZ exists in Zimbabwe and that it continues to receive recognition directly or indirectly from various media stakeholders is a success in itself. Further to this, the inclusive government and the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) must be cautiously credited with introducing new print media players in the country. However there are challenges that remain for the media in Zimbabwe. These include the continued existence of a repressive media environment as well as the specter of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act among many other laws that continue to criminalize the noble journalistic profession in which we are all involved.

Further to these threats, developments within our Southern African region as well as in the northern parts of the world particularly the newfound debate on the introduction of new legislation governing freedom of expression and access to information have led to the political compromise of media freedom due to references relating to state security and stability.

International phone-hacking scandals in the north and the west have led to parts of the international debate putting spotlights on the merits and de-merits of self regulation of the media.

In Zimbabwe, this debate has however unfortunately not been as public as expected. And the onus remains on media practitioners, editors, media trainers, media owners, media related civil society organizations and civil society in general to begin this debate in earnest and in the public interest. And this debate should be conscious of the fact that media practitioners in Zimbabwe have already indicated without any doubt their commitment to self regulation of the media by forming the VMCZ. Indeed the VMCZ has had many challenges given the fact that the government established a constitutional commission to regulate the media. This does not however mean that the necessity of the existence of the VMCZ falls away. It actually points to the fact that the workload of the VMCZ and various media stakeholders to continue persuading any government of the day, by word and deed, the democratic significance of self-regulation of the media.

Once again, I would like to express my gratitude to all those that have managed to take time off what are very busy schedules to make it to this particular meeting. As the programme indicates it is only a half day meeting but it is not the last such meeting. I hope that in the deliberations of this meeting we shall come up with a framework for a way forward that we can all collectively follow up on both in relation to media self regulation and media training. Indeed in some instances it may seem as though the challenges are insurmountable but I am sure that working together, with a firm understanding and belief in media self regulation. Together we can put the prophets of doom to shame.

Thank you.

Mr. A Muchadehama


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