Media practitioners in Bulawayo have condemned the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) Bill, noting that it gives too much authority to the minister to overrule the media commission.
The journalists made these remarks during a public consultation meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Information, Media and Broadcasting Services, Tuesday, held at a local hotel.
The Bill which was gazetted on August 9, is one of the three media bills lined to replace the repressive and widely discredited Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA).
They (journalists) suggested the Bill be amended so that it does not award the minister authority to rule over decisions made by the ZMC.
Innocent Kurwa, a retired journalist, said the Commission is an institution under the amended Constitution and as such should promote democracy.
Kurwa said Section 21 and Section 7 of the Bill are in violation of the Constitution’s Section 235 which explains what constitutes the independence of Commissions.
“ZMC is a Chapter 12 institution that is supposed to engender and deepen democratic governance in the country. When we look at this Bill and the aspect of the minister’s powers therein, we realise that Section 10 (8) provides the authority to issue a certificate to stop an inquiry,” said Kurwa.
“For this Bill to be effective, the minister must be removed totally. Awarding such power to the minister means he can stop investigations willy-nilly. ZMC must be granted the ability to be answerable directly to the parliament and respond to the public via the same avenue. Awarding such authority to the minister deviates the Bill from constitutional provisions.”
Nkululeko Sibanda, another journalist reiterated the Bill must make a provision for journalists to self-regulate themselves when carrying out their duties.
Sibanda said some of the regulations imposed by the government hinders scribes from freely carrying out their duties.
A student in journalism, Abigirl Siziba, said the bill leaves room for loopholes as it does not stipulate the amount of time that the Commission chairperson can stay in office.
She added that leaving the timeframe open creates leeway for corruption and issues of abuse of office.
Isaac Waniwa, marketing manager of Zimpapers in Bulawayo advocated for co-regulation, citing the ZMC should concern itself with solely the administrative issues and for professional issues and professional outcomes, there be another body to address.