New dawn for media freedoms

07 Apr, 2019 - 00:04 0 Views
New dawn for media freedoms

The Sunday Mail

Lincoln Towindo

The Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC), expected to be reconstituted under a new law  currently in the works, will be required to delegate some of its regulatory powers to an independent body of media practitioners in a development that is set to entrench self-regulation within the profession.

The Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill is set to scrap Government regulation of the industry while introducing co-regulation of the media between the ZMC and an independent professional body constituted by the industry.

The ZMC Bill is one of the three laws set to replace the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa), scheduled for repeal soon.

Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said last week regulation of the media industry would be liberalised.

ZMC, he said, will be moulded as a professional regulatory body in line with international best practice.

“We are in the process of unbundling AIPPA and discussions are ongoing.

“We have the Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill; the Protection of Privacy and Information Bill; and the Data Protection Bill and these are the Bills that constitute the unbundling of Aippa as part of the political and electoral reforms we are carrying out,” said Minister Ziyambi.

“The argument here is that it is not only the Electoral Act that impacts on the elections but there are other laws that may affect the conduct of elections; hence, the unbundling of Aippa and the repeal of laws such as Posa,” he said.

But perhaps one of the key highlights of the envisaged law is the decriminalisation of the profession.

There was a feeling in the industry that Government regulation in the sector was overly intrusive.

“Aippa had created some form of undesirable regulation of the journalism profession, and the argument was that the world over that is not something that was there as best practice, although regulation is not a bad idea.

“Our thinking is the moment you acknowledge the existence of a profession, you need to create a body that self-regulates and then that body is the one that would then say your conduct borders on criminal activity and act as a complainant.

“We do not want a situation where a policeman walks into a newsroom and arrests a journalist alleging that a story written by that journalist is criminal,” explained Minister Ziyambi.

Government, he added, plans to make the ZMC as independent as other professional bodies.

The new law will mandate ZMC to enforce good and ethical practices in the industry while promoting the use of all official languages.

It will also compel the self-regulating body to take action against journalists who breach the law or any industry code of conduct.

Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe director Mr Loughty Dube, who is also a participant in the drafting of the new law, said the proposed provisions are in line with international best practice.

“We are happy about the new structure because it is not the business of the Government to control the media.

“We had the Impi (Information and Media Panel of Inquiry), which also recommended that co-regulation was the way to go and this is also partly in line with the Banjul and the Windhoek declarations that propose self-regulation as the way to go.

“We cannot wish away the ZMC because it’s a Constitutional body but co-regulation is the way to go.”

Impi was set up in December 2013 to promote high professional standards in the industry.

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