Parliament has recommended a complete overhaul of broadcasting and media legislations, because current laws infringed on the rights of journalists and were not in tandem with provisions of the Global Political Agreement (GPA).
The recommendations were made by the Portfolio Committee on Media, Information and Communication Technology this week after investigations on the state of public media in Zimbabwe.
The report also recommended that Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) should be transformed from a State to a public broadcaster, in compliance with regional instruments.
“There were concerns that ZBC was wholly controlled by the Minister of Media, Information and Publicity who appoints the board and issues directives to the board and management and that it was highly regarded as a State-controlled broadcaster, serving the interests of the State rather than those of the public,” reads the committee’s report.
“The current monopoly being enjoyed by the ZBC was regarded as incompatible with the right to freedom of expression as Article V (of the GPA) obliges the State to encourage a diverse, independent private broadcasting sector.”
The committee also expressed concern over legislation which it said was hindering a free and democratic media atmosphere in the country.
“Stakeholders in the media fraternity were concerned that the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act purports to give journalists access to records and information held by government departments and other government bodies when in reality there are a lot of restrictions,” the report reads.
“In a way it curtails information on mismanagement or fraud in parastatals, accountability by public officials and curtails the media’s watchdog function to expose corruption in the interest of the public.”
The committee also said punitive measures against journalists accused of falsehood were too harsh.
“Editors felt that retraction of the story by the editor correcting the position and admitting that they lied is more damaging and adequate punishment than sending a journalist to jail,” it reads.