Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Monica Mutsvangwa accused of lying to cabinet on ZMC Amendment Bill

Media stakeholders have accused Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa of presenting “flawed” principles to the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) Amendment Bill and the Media Practitioners Bill (MPB) to cabinet.

On Tuesday, the cabinet announced principles of the two bills after their presentation by the line Minister, Mutsvangwa.

But the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ) has issued a statement arguing that the gazetted principles were not in tandem with what was agreed during a consultative meeting between stakeholders and the Ministry.

On the 11th and 12th of August 2022, media stakeholders that included editors, journalists, professional associations, academia and retired media practitioners met with government stakeholders that included the Minister, her deputy and Permanent Secretary, legislators and representatives of the ZMC at a workshop in Kadoma to discuss principles of the bill.

“The ZMC Amendment Bill seeks to expand the Media Commission’s mandate to include functions that were obtained in the now defunct Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA). These functions include the registration of mass media services, accreditation of journalists and administration of a Media Fund,” MAZ said in a statement.

“On the other hand, the Media Practitioners Bill will provide parameters for media co-regulation through delegating the powers of the ZMC to ‘professional bodies’ and ‘the drafting of a Code of Ethics by each professional body’.

“While acknowledging that the Ministry of Information Publicity and Broadcasting Services is pursuing the noble cause to sustain momentum around reforming media laws, MAZ is concerned that the announced principles, especially as with regards to the Media Practitioners Bill deviates from the position agreed between media industry actors and government.”

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MAZ said that the Kadoma meeting resolved to professionalise the media sector in a gender inclusive manner and for the industry to set up a professional council that would enforce a binding code of conduct for the sector.

The organisation, however, states that the gazetted principles were “flawed” because they did not represent what was agreed upon.

“The gazetted principles are thus flawed in that instead of driving the industry towards standardizing the quality of journalism and professionalizing the sector, the principles further polarize and divide the sector,” read the statement.

“It must be placed on record that the proposals by the government to delegate the powers and functions of the Commission to undefined professional bodies are not new.

“Earlier attempts to have multiple so called professional bodies regulate the media were resisted by media stakeholders with Parliament vehemently debating the provisions resulting in their withdrawal from the ZMC Act.

“Similar attempts to polarise the media and divide it across platforms were again debated at the Kadoma meeting where it was resolved that a professional self regulatory council be the first port of handling complaints against the media while the ZMC becomes the appellant body. The meeting resolved to have one enforceable code of conduct for the sector.”

MAZ said it was” taken aback by this development and urges the Ministry to reconsider the principles in the spirit of the agreed position in Kadoma.

“The principle of co-regulation of the media has to be anchored on an industry driven professional council and binding code of ethics that is gender inclusive and standardises the quality of journalism across all platforms.” Maz added.