Media co-regulation way to go: Govt

BY FARAI MATIASHE

Information ministry secretary Ndavaningi Mangwana has said government is amenable to co-regulation of the media industry under the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) Bill currently at the drafting stage.

This comes in the wake of criticism from media stakeholders that the Bill was not allowing the industry to self-regulate.

“It’s a draft Bill and, yes, we have asked for it (co-regulation) to be included,” Mangwana told NewsDay in Harare yesterday.

“On October 7, we used that opportunity of a request by Parliamentary Legal Committee to respond to concerns raised to include co-regulation into our suggested amendments. We said let us incorporate co-regulation.”

The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Information is currently holding public hearings on the ZMC Bill.

Media Institute of Southern Africa-Zimbabwe chapter director Thabani Moyo said co-regulation will see the media industry self-regulating while the ZMC will play an oversight role.

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“Initially, we had a strong position that we want self-regulation outright, but as a compromise, we settled for co-regulation, whereby ZMC is appellant while the self-regulatory body will regulate the industry. So, it will be the industry regulating itself. This is a position we have been pushing from way before, but the government was not keen on it; it wanted to entrench (the media),” he said.

Moyo said the Information ministry should go beyond just telling the nation that they had included co-regulation in the ZMC Bill, but should take a pragmatic approach.

“We welcome (this move), if it is going to be in the context, they must move beyond verbal (and) commit towards coming up with the Bills that reflect this position of co-regulation.

Time is no longer on our side to keep on ruminating through words, we want text. We want something in black and white so that we can commit and move forward with the law-making process which is responsive to the industry and which is reflective to the position of the industry,” he said.

Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe executive director Loughty Dube said co-regulation will decriminalise the profession and allow the media industry to control its professional standards.

He said the issue of polarisation of the media will also be dealt with through the inclusion of co-regulation in the ZMC Bill.

“The inclusion of media self-regulation will also deal with the issue of polarisation as under the proposal, co-regulation will ensure that the self-regulatory body is the first port of call while the statutory body becomes the appellant body,” Dube said.

Media Alliance of Zimbabwe programmes manager Nigel Nyamutumbu said it is gratifying that government has come to its senses to support and recognise the principle of self-regulation.

“While self-regulation will in this case be espoused in a statutory framework, given the constitutional provisions that entrench the same, it is still progressive that the two systems can co-exist equally,” he said.

“A self-regulatory framework is the most professional manner of holding the media accountable and creates a conducive environment for journalistic freedoms to thrive. Beyond recognising co-regulation, government should come out strongly against criminalisation of the profession and the independence and integrity of ZMC.”

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