Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services initiates work towards the alignment of Media Laws to the Constitution

The Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services with support from the Inter-Ministerial Taskforce (IMT) on the Alignment of Laws with the constitution conducted round table consultative discussions. These discussed were soliciting for stakeholder inputs towards the alignment of Media Laws to the Constitution.

The roundtable meetings ran from the 26th to the 30th of November 2018, these were preparatory meetings towards an all stakeholder meeting that will encompass the broader media fraternity that was held in Harare on the 7th and 8th of December 2018.

The roundtable consultative discussions were structured into five groups as follows;

– Print Media and Publishing Houses

– Television and Radio Broadcasters

– Civic Media Organizations and Special Groups

– Advertising Agencies and Online Publishers

– Academics and Interested Parties

Each group had  half-day consultative engagements with principals from the Information Ministry and IMT Technical Committee. On top of the engagements, stakeholders had an opportunity to submit written submissions to the Ministry.

The major focus area was on the Access to Information and Protection Privacy Act (AIPPA), and the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA). Discussions pointed out the need to unbundle AIPPA and come up with two new Bills, namely      (i) Access to Information Bill and (ii) a Data Protection Bill.

Stakeholders proposed  for the BSA to be amended to accommodate current global trends and to be grounded from the best global practices.

The print media segment was happy to see the Ministry being forth coming and requesting for stakeholder input towards the alignment of Media Laws with the Constitution. Private press representatives were particularly interested in the need to repeal AIPPA, concerns rose about AIPPA’s provisions and how it stifles the operation of the media and media practitioners.

Press representatives wanted pieces of legislation that are grounded in the Constitution which take into consideration its supremacy, in accordance with section 2 of the Constitution..

The broadcasting segment and content producers aired out how there is need to have a broadcasting regulation that encompasses the new digital trends. The Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) acknowledged that some of the provisions under the BSA were out of sync with the new technological advancements.

Stakeholders want a regulating act that enables  the broadcasters to include all the eleven official languages, and they stated the need to open up calls for broadcasting licenses.

A call was made for the need to have frame works in place that protect Zimbabwe’s diverse,rich, cultural and traditional values.

A suggestion  to have an impartial state broadcaster was made, as well as the need for the state media to be independent, impartial and to offer divergent views. Editorial independence was also highlighted by stakeholders and that it should be engrained in all state media entities.

Currently the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) operates as a public broadcaster and also as a commercial entity. Stakeholders expressed the need to harmonize acts regulating the operation of the national broadcaster.

Content producers and online producers want a regulating frame work that enables them to freely operate with fair competition.

Speaking on the sidelines of the roundtable discussions, Dr. Gurira, from the Ministry of Information stated that,

“the main objective of the stakeholder roundtable meeting that the ministry is holding under the framework of the IMT is to make sure that the main laws which are mainly AIPPA and BSA in the media sector are attended to , these two pieces of legislation are not in sync at the present moment with the constitution which was enacted in 2013.”

Dr. Gurira added that “… the ministry has committed itself at the highest level, to make sure that the alignment of media laws is done within the short term …  the ministry wants to align media laws within the 1st quarter in the coming year and enable the pieces to go through parliament.”

The Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services is geared towards the alignment of Media Laws.

Community radio representatives are advocating for a piece of legislation that ensures the licensing of community radios. This is because community radios are instrumental and pivotal in enabling a well-informed community, they serve to uplift the locals through information dissemination of relevant community needs.

Speaking on the sidelines of the roundtable meetings, Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio stations (ZACRAS) Chairperson, Perlagia Kapuya pointed out that the BSA has provisions that enable community radios to operate, however she pointed out the lack of implementation of these provisions. She noted that the BSA provides for a three tier broadcasting system (public, commercial and community), though only public and commercial broadcasters are catered for, leaving out community radios.