Ministry of Information, Publicity, Media and Broadcasting Services held a two day stakeholder workshop on the alignment of media laws with the Constitution

The Inter-Ministerial Taskforce on the Alignment of Laws with the Constitution (IMT) has supported the Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services to align media laws with the Constitution. The Ministry intends to unbundle the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and come up with four bills namely; a Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill, Freedom of Information Bill, Data/Information Protection Bill and Broadcasting Services Amendment Bill.

Present at the workshop that was held at Pandhari Lodge, Harare on the 7th to the 8th of December 2018 were the Minister Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Honorable Monica Mutsvangwa, Ministry of Information Permanent Secretary N. Mangwana, government officials, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), Parliamentary Committee on Information, Media & Broadcasting Services including the Parliamentary Chair of the Media Committee, Honorable Chikwinya, Developmental partners and various stakeholders.

The Ministry of Information is keen to undo AIPPA, speaking at the workshop on her keynote address, Ministry of Information Minister, Hon Mutsvangwa alluded that her ministry seeks to undo AIPPA as the new dispensation is on a reformist agenda, she noted how her ministry intends to seek and embrace global media practices. Her ministry seeks to utilize the stakeholder workshop to solicit ideas in coming up with the best legal and policy framework towards media operations and freedom of expression.

“…the media needs an enabling environment, that enabling environment is made possible by good legal framework and a sector that pursues best practices” said Minister Mutsvangwa in her address.

The ministry is seized with a task to craft a policy and legal framework that enables the media to operate in a conducive environment, a key pillar of democracy, allowing the citizens to be well informed through a free media.

The Ministry of Information seeks to craft laws that are in sync with the Constitution and with regional and international statutes, where the media operates in a free environment, where freedom of expression is safeguarded. The Ministry takes its stewardship in the new dispensation projection where the reformist agenda is at play. Also, during the 9th opening of Parliament, the President of Zimbabwe, Honorable E.D. Mnangagwa reiterated calls to align all laws with the Constitution.

The discussion was centered on AIPPA, Ms Chikakano of CALR focused on three aspects of AIPPA, that is on; access to information, protection of privacy and personal information then data protection. She narrowed down to the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC), highlighting how AIPPA establishes the commission. ZMC is an alignment issue since its provisions and operational framework has inconsistencies with the Constitution.

The ZMC’s establishment under AIPPA falls off as the Constitution is the supreme law of Zimbabwe, alignment therefore arises from the need to have a ZMC act grounded in chapter 12 of the Constitution.

Interesting discussions that have to be addressed by the ZMC Bill include a definition of “who  the media is”, stakeholders had to throw in ideas and opinions in trying to give meaning to the latter, shedding light to the new digital trends like citizen journalism.

Present at the workshop, on day 1 was the European Union (EU) ambassador to Zimbabwe, Timo Olkkonen, who noted that the delegation of the EU is closely following the proceedings. The EU ambassador was glad to witness the steps that had been taken by the Ministry of Information, Publicity, Media and Broadcasting Services in seeking to align media laws with the Constitution.

Present on day 2 was Bishow Parajuli (United Nations Resident Coordinator), in his address he stipulated how the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) and access to information should be about promoting freedom of information, right to information ensures for citizens to be informed and make informed political responses, leading to a win-win situation. The UN Resident Coordinator said as people deliberate they must accept that there are limits in enjoying these rights especially in regards to privacy and security.

Discussions arose in relation to the Data Protection Bill, stakeholders mentioned that certain information cannot be disclosed, for example issues to do with one’s health status. A Data Protection Bill must promote and safeguard such privacy concerns.