Media stakeholders poke holes on new Bill

BY SILAS NKALA

MEDIA stakeholders have expressed disquiet over the new Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill tabled in Parliament on March 10 this year, saying some of its clauses were not in sync with the sector’s interests.

Speaking during a Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) consultative meeting in Bulawayo yesterday, journalists said the Bill, in its current form, curtailed their freedoms.

The Bill is still being discussed in Parliament after the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Information, Media and Broadcasting Services conducted public hearings last year and submitted its report to the House on March 10.

VMCZ executive director Loughty Dube said one of the contentious issues in the Bill was that it gave more power to the Information minister.

“In October, we had a meeting with the Information minister (Monica Mutsvangwa) and the secretary (Ndavaningi Mangwana), it was a very explorative meeting where we were very clear and the minister was very clear that they are supporting co-regulation.”

Dube said they then produced a Bill which the stakeholders critiqued before it was tabled for discussion.

He said on December 19, Mutsvangwa made an amendment to the original Bill that had been tabled in Parliament.

“The Amendment (on December 19) was worse. We also critiqued the amendment and they withdrew the Bill from Parliament with its amendment. They started another process to consult through the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee,” he said.

Dube said the committee was clear that it was supporting the co-regulation of the media and journalists, indicating that even the Zimbabwe Media Commission had a position paper that supported co-regulation.

He said stakeholders recently met with the parliamentary committee and submitted another position paper on what should be included in the Bill.

He added that the VMCZ, Zimbabwe Union of Journalists and Media Institute of Southern Africa recently held a meeting with the Attorney-General Prince Machaya and his drafters at the ZMC offices, but the latter seemed unaware of how co-regulation worked.

“We went the following day and they did not even understand what a Press council is. Their own idea was that they were going to allow journalists to operate under associations, but we said associations do not deal with ethics, they deal with membership issues,” he said.

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