BY VENERANDA LANGA
CHAIRPERSON of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Media, Prince Dubeko Sibanda (MDC Alliance) yesterday called for the revival of the Zimbabwe Mass Media Trust (ZMMT) to stop government interference in the running of Zimbabwe Newspapers (Zimpapers).
Sibanda said this in Gweru during a workshop for MPs, in collaboration with the Media Institute for Southern Africa (Misa), Media Alliance of Zimbabwe, the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) and the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists aimed at unravelling media laws that
will soon be brought before Parliament for amendments or re-crafting.
The laws include the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa), Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) and the Zimbabwe Media
Commission Bill, which was this week approved by Cabinet and will be brought before Parliament.
ZMMT was made redundant during the tenure of former Information minister Jonathan Moyo.
“As MPs, we need to make laws for good governance and ZMMT was a buffer to protect Zimpapers from ministerial interference and there used
to be three trustees, but currently there is one trustee and it simply means that ZMMT is dead and government is controlling State media,”
“ZMMT needs to be revived to its original position so that Zimpapers can stand in the manner it was envisaged in 1981 and we need to
recreate that buffer which was there because the public media should be able to portray independent editorial policy.”
He said the committee was concerned about where the dividends of ZMMT were going.
VMCZ executive director Loughty Dube said in the 1980s, there was a framework in terms of how ZMMT was constituted.
Dube said the trust received US$5 million from Nigeria to buy off a 51% stake in Zimpapers to ensure that the Zimbabwean public
controlled newspapers under the stable that includes The Herald, Sunday Mail, Chronicle, Manica Post and Sunday News.
“The way ZMMT should operate is clearly spelt out and its role needs to be renewed and revisited so that the 51% stake is controlled by
the public. Its founding documents are there, but what is not happening is implementation and ZMMT was made redundant by Moyo for political purposes,” he said.
In a speech read on behalf of Misa-Zimbabwe national director Thabani Moyo, Misa programmes manager Nyasha Nyakunu urged MPs to ensure
that retrogressive provisions in Aippa, BSA and other media laws to be brought before Parliament are not retained.
“The ZMC Bill proposes to retain provisions which criminalise the media profession and gives more powers to the minister, thereby
compromising media’s independence. The BSA has provisions pertaining to a 20% stake in broadcasting ownership and to outlaw donations and yet community radio stations rely on donations and MPs need to look at that,” Nyakunu said.
He said all the media laws to be crafted by Parliament should fall in line with international norms.