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  • New Constitution-making process - Index of articles

  • Position paper on media provisions in the draft constitution
    Media Alliance of Zimbabwe
    October 16, 2012

    The Media Alliance of Zimbabwe welcomes provisions in the Draft Constitution of Zimbabwe produced on 18 July 2012 which contains an express guarantee on freedom of expression, which includes freedom of the media, artistic expression and academic freedom, as well as guaranteeing the right to access information, in compliance with international standards.

    However, MAZ notes several areas of concern that should be amended to adequately guarantee freedom of expression and access to information.

    MAZ is concerned by the entrenchment of "state-owned" media in Section 4.18(4). Although the draft protects the independence and impartiality of the state-owned media, the best way forward would be to transform all state-owned media into public media that are run by independent boards and are accountable to the public through Parliament. The appointment procedure for board members should be democratic and fully transparent, and allow for public input. In light of this, the Constitution should clearly state and define "public media", as opposed to "state media".

    State media fall directly under the control of state institutions, such as the Ministry of Information and cannot be expected to be fair, balanced and impartial. Public media on the other hand, are independent institutions established to work in the public interest in line with regional and international standards and principles contained in documents, such as the "Declaration of Principles of Freedom of Expression in Africa" adopted by the AU Commission on Human and People's Rights in 2002. Zimbabwe's national broadcaster, ZBC, is an example of a public media institution that has been hijacked by the state for narrow partisan political purposes.

    MAZ is also concerned by the entrenchment of statutory regulation of the media through the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC), created by Section 12.17 of the draft Constitution. This section reinforces the disciplinary powers of the ZMC to "take or recommend disciplinary action against journalists and other persons employed in the press and other media of communication who are found to have breached any law or any code of conduct applicable to them". This provision contradicts a clause guaranteeing media freedom where it refers to the fact that government shall not control or interfere with any media activity, because it allows for continued statutory interference in the freedom of the media. The existence of a statutory "disciplinary" body for the media runs counter to the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa. If a media institution breaks an existing law, there is no need for a Commission to usurp the perfectly adequate justice system to enforce any penalties associated with the breach of that law.

    MAZ believes that codes of conduct should be a matter for the media community to establish and to enforce - not a statuory commission. This self-regulation, supervised by an independent media council established by the media community, should be guaranteed in the new Constitution as it protects freedom of expression and promotes independent and professional journalism.

    MAZ also notes that although access to public information held by the state is specifically guaranteed, it does not protect against subsequent legislation that obstructs the public's right to access contemporary information. For example, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) allegedly guarantees the public's right to information but then takes the right away by introducing numerous arbitrary and discretionary conditions that have the effect of depriving the public of their right to information. This section should contain a clause specifically guaranteeing the public's right to access public information contemporaneously.

    About the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe

    The Media Alliance of Zimbabwe is a partnership of media advocacy and representative groups in Zimbabwe working towards defending freedom of expression and freedom of the media. Since its formation, MAZ has been advocating for media law and policy reform, to ensure a free, fair, independent and pluralistic media.

    Members of the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe are:

    Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zimbabwe Chapter

    Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ)

    Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ)

    Zimbabwe National Editors' Forum (ZINEF)

    Federation of African Media Women Zimbabwe (FAMWZ)

    Africa Community Publishing Development Trust (ACPDT)

    Visit the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe fact sheet

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