Zimbabwe has missed a 40-year opportunity to develop its media industry, the local chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Zimbabwe) said on Saturday.
Zimbabwe April 18 celebrated its 40 years of independence from British colonial rule.
In a statement MISA-Zimbabwe said it was regrettable to note that 40 years after Uhuru, the country was yet to have independent television stations, community radios, vibrant and democratically regulated media industry.
“MISA Zimbabwe, however, notes that it was only until last year, when the government gazetted the ‘relevant’ Bills that would replace the widely discredited Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), through the Freedom of Information Bill (FOB) and the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) Bill,” said the civic society organisation.
While the FOB awaits enactment into law by the President with the ZMC Bill now at the Second reading stage in Parliament, the two were, however, widely criticised as not meeting constitutional and regional as well as international benchmarks and best practice on access to information and media freedom.
“These developments should be viewed against President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s commitment to entrenching the pillars of democracy following former President Robert Mugabe’s ouster from power in November 2017,” said MISA-Zimbabwe.
“It is therefore trite to note that Zimbabwe was still to license community radio stations, 19 years after enactment of the Broadcasting Services Act in 2001, and 40 years after independence, despite this being provided for in terms of the law. And, 40 years later, the country was still to license privately owned commercial television stations at a time when other Southern African countries now boast a plethora of both community radio stations and privately owned television stations.”
MISA-Zimbabwe said that was not something worth boasting about.
“We, however, take note of the fact that the government through the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ), has since called for applications for broadcasting services licences for three main categories namely: free to air national commercial television broadcasting service, free to air community radio broadcasting service and campus radio stations,” further said MISA-Zimbabwe.
“It is within the scope of this call that MISA Zimbabwe advises the government to be holistic in the review of the media laws and the imperative need towards the genuine liberalisation of the industry to strengthen competition, which in case improves the quality of the programmes and support towards the development of the content generation industry.”
The media rights organisation added: “As it is, Zimbabwe cannot afford to continue on the trajectory of missed opportunities given its precarious socio-economic situation and urgent need to regain its position in the international community of nations through accelerated, genuine and holistic democratic reforms.”