Four media Bills on the cards

Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
Government has started crafting four Bills related to the media industry aimed at ensuring that the country has a professional, viable legal framework that is consistent with the Constitution, a Cabinet Minister has said.

Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said it was important that all stakeholders give their views on the envisaged legal instruments in a frank and open way to ensure that the country came up with the best media legal framework.

Minister Mutsvangwa said this in Harare yesterday while addressing stakeholders in the media industry during a media reform stakeholders consultation workshop. The workshop was attended by Parliament’s portfolio committee on the media, academics, media advocacy groups, civic society and development partners.

The four Bills are Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill, Freedom of Information Bill, Data/Information Protection Bill and Broadcasting Services Amendment Bill.

“If the media has to play that crucial role, it needs an enabling environment. That enabling environment is made possible by a good legal framework and a sector that pursues best practices,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.

“It is thus my wish that at the end of this workshop, we should be able to proceed to the next stage of creating that good legal environment and crafting a media policy that will promote nothing but the best in the media sector.”

Minister Mutsvangwa implored stakeholders to carefully study current media laws and identify where they were at variance with the Constitution.

“The laws that have shaped and have been regulating the industry include Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation Commercial Act of 2001 that unbundled the national broadcaster, the infamous Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act that is predominantly aimed at the print media and the Broadcasting Services Act which regulates the electronic media. If there is anything in these laws that you think is not progressive, this is the time to say it out so we make amends,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.

She said Government would also be guided by the commissioned Information and Media Panel of Inquiry that sought to review the state of the media.

President Mnangagwa, said Minister Mnangagwa, was doing away with all the backward inclinations of the old order through reaching out to all Zimbabweans as he seeks to lead through inclusiveness.

The secretary for Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Mr Nick Mangwana said the media was not an exception in Government’s thrust to attain Vision 2030.

“The reformist agenda being pursued by President Mnangagwa is underpinned by ensuring the enjoyment of civil rights, freedom of expression and media rights, freedom of conscience and access to information.

“There is also an obligation for the media to respect other equally important rights which are key to achieve democracy. Some of our laws have been overtaken by technology rendering them obsolete and irrelevant,” said Mr Mangwana.

He said the workshop should come up with solutions on how to regulate social media which has seen everyone becoming a citizen journalist.

“How do we protect our local media entrepreneurs from the vagaries of big media such as CNN, BBC?” said Mr Mangagwana.

“At the end of the day it is our desire to ensure that the media industry identifies with the final product,” said Mr Mangwana.

Addressing the same gathering, Chief Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet Dr Misheck Sibanda said since the adoption of the current Constitution, Zimbabwe prioritised the alignment of all national laws and policies to the supreme law of the land.

He said Government set up an Inter-Ministerial Taskforce on the alignment of legislation the Constitution under the coordination of the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.

“Many pieces of legislation are still pending alignment. The outstanding legislative Acts include the AIPPA and the Broadcasting Services Act which are the subject of this consultative workshop,” said Dr Sibanda in a speech read on his behalf by his deputy Dr Ray Ndhukula.