I’ll engage security sector over defamation law: Charamba

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Information, Media and Broadcasting Services secretary George Charamba has promised to engage other government departments like the police, army and Central Intelligence Organisation on the criminal defamation law which was recently struck off the statutes by the Constitutional Court.

by VENERANDA LANGA

Appearing before the William Dhewa-chaired Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Media yesterday, Charamba was asked about the implication on criminal defamation cases still pending before the courts in view of the law being declared unconstitutional.

“As a civil servant, I will start from the premise that there is already a judgment in place on criminal defamation, and the key thing is now to incorporate that judgment in the law as we draft it,” Charamba said.

GEORGE CHARAMBA George Charamba

“Former Media minister Jonathan Moyo had long pronounced himself on the matter, and that position was confirmed by the Supreme Court. I will draw my colleagues in other departments to ensure we walk in the same step on the premise there is already a law that we must respect.”

Mabvuku-Tafara MP James Maridadi (MDC-T) then asked Charamba to explain why the Access to Information and Protection to Privacy Act had not been aligned to the Constitution despite President Robert Mugabe having told Parliament it would be aligned in 2010.

The legislator also said Charamba should explain the action that his ministry would take to curb hate speech and violence threats by politicians being reported in newspapers.

“In terms of polarisation — at the end of the day, the person who matters is the publisher. The bottom line is to build goodwill and then say the product must be ethical and support the broader goals of this country,” Charamba said.

“My next preoccupation is that we will raise issues of ethics and professionalism to say is it quite remit for a publisher to have an editor who conveys hatred — a publisher who becomes an actor on a matter he is supposed to report from?”

He added: “I worry about editors on dos and don’ts, but I worry more about publishers because they are the ones who tell the editors to behave. I will engage the publishers.”

Charamba said currently, the country was on 34% completion of the digitisation programme.

He said installation of the digitisation project equipment would be affected by financial constraints allegedly due to United States sanctions.

“We have discovered that each time we do payments to Huawei, we have questions to answer from the American government or Europeans afraid of Americans. They ask the same routine questions in a boring way and it creates delays in the transactions,” he said.

“The transactions always trouble us to the extent we end up using Chinese money. The technology we are using comes from America.”

Charamba said complete digitisation would cost over $172 million.

He said there would be restructuring of all units under the ministry like the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, Zimbabwe Newspapers, Kingstons and New Ziana to be in line with digitisation and become multimedia organisations.

On print media, Charamba said there was need to build economies of scale so as to have an industry which could beat cost structures in newsprint acquisition and transportation of newspapers.