Thursday, September 16, 2021
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Masvingo media rejects ZMC bill


VMCZ programmes officer Faith Ndlovu, executive director Loughty Ndlovu and Misa national chairperson Golden Maunganidze were part of the gathering


Moses
Ziyambi

Journalists, media
students and other media practitioners in Masvingo have expressed serious
reservations with the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) Bill which they say would
perpetuate the criminalisation of the profession if passed in its current form.
Speaking at a ZMC Bill
discussion organised by the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) at the
Civic Centre last week, participants agreed that the bill sought to maintain
the current repressive media regulatory framework albeit in a more salient
manner.
“The media should be
given room to self-regulate just like what other professions do. We have
lawyers, doctors and other professionals running their own affairs through
their respective professional bodies. Why not give journalists the same chance
as has become international best practice?” said Walter Mswazie of The Chronicle.
Other journalists
criticised provisions that the ZMC’s eight commissioners would be appointed by
the President in consultation with Parliament’s Standing Rules and Orders
Committee.
They argued that having
leaders of a commission provided for by the national constitution being
appointed by political leaders would be detrimental to the commission’s
independence and neutrality.
They also criticised
provisions that the secretary of the commission, who will be responsible for
the day-to-day running of the council, would be appointed by the President in
consultation with the ministries of Information and Finance.
“Having the CEO of the
commission being answerable to political office diminishes whatever faith that
the media would otherwise have in the political independence of the commission.
The bill in its entirety is a new AIPPA returning via the back door,” said
Theresa Takafuma of TellZim News.
VMCZ executive director
Loughty Dube said his organisation’s position was that self-regulation should
co-exist with statutory regulation to enable the two systems to complement each
other.
“We acknowledge the
need for ZMC because it is a body provided for in the supreme law of the land.
We are, however, appalled by gross attempts to impose statutory regulation at
the expense of self-regulation.
“We are convinced the
two systems can exist side by side. Media complaints should be handled firstly
by a voluntary body and if the aggrieved parties are not satisfied, they can
then appeal with ZMC which would act as an appellant. The simple message we are
communicating is that self-regulation is possible and the media are capable of
being responsible enough to correct themselves and be accountable. We can find
ways of dealing with their own professional challenges just as doctors and
lawyers do. Do the police get involved if a doctor is accused of botching a
surgical operation or if there are allegation that a lawyer has acted
unethically? They are never deregistered by government, but by their own peers
using agreed professional codes.
“We are also worried because
the bill wants journalists to be jailed for professional mistakes. That is
totally unacceptable,” said Dube.
Other contentious
provisions of the bill that came under scrutiny include provision that a
complainant of alleged media misconduct does not necessarily have to be
directly affected by the story. This was interpreted as a ploy to overwhelm the
media with complaints, for example, from ruling party supporters unhappy with
critical coverage of the President.
Journalists also
attacked the provision that the Minister of Information would be able to bar
the work of the commission if he/she feels its investigations are not
favourable to the ‘national interest’ or ‘state security’. This means the
commission would operate at the whim of political office holders and would be
stopped dead in its tracks if its investigations are thought to be politically
incorrect.

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