HARARE – Zimbabwe media groups are up in arms with government over attempts to entrench its control and further perpetuate polarisation within the industry through sponsoring formation of multiple associations to police their peers under the envisaged co-regulatory framework.
Government is in the process of enacting the Media Practitioners Act which, among other aims, seeks to create co-regulation by the state, through ZMC on one hand, and a professional body comprising media actors on the other.
But government has torched a storm after indicating the state regulation wing shall remain intact while the independent arm shall comprise “professional bodies”.
Speaking during a recent post-cabinet media briefing, Information and Publicity Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said cabinet acknowledged the need to amend the Zimbabwe Media Commission Act so as to provide, among other things, “for delegation of disciplinary powers to professional bodies registered with the Commission”.
Similarly, at a January 13 interface with editors of different media outlets under the Zimbabwe National Editors Forum (ZINEF), ZMC chairperson Ruby Magosvongwe said “Using Sections 249 (1) (d) and 321 (2) of the Constitution, proponents of co-regulation accept the need to have professional body or bodies to deal with professional issues.”
Magosvongwe added, “There is need for smaller, decentralized refineries in the form of constitutions and codes of conduct of media associations subject to approval by the ZMC.”
The stance by government necessitated a meeting among the country’s media representative groups which came up with a position urging government to “revise the principles to the Media Practitioners Bill to explicitly reflect that there shall be one self-regulatory council to jointly enforce a unified Code of Conduct with the Zimbabwe Media Commission”.
“Government and the ZMC engage with media representative bodies in good faith and sincerely without which as journalists will reconsider our position if the aforementioned demands are not sufficiently addressed,” said the media groups in their communique.
Buttressing the position, ZINEF coordinator Njabulo Ncube said co-regulation should be between ZMC and one independent, homogenous body carrying the collective interests of all the other sectors.
“They have gone out to look for pseudo stakeholders of the industry to create their own associations that would then regulate themselves,” Ncube said.
“In its wisdom, government wants, for example, ZBC to have its own professional body that would discipline its own journalists, AMH, content creators, Zimpapers, entertainment and sports journalists, something that is going to create chaos.
“For instance, it is wrong for a journalist to appear on television wearing, be it a Zanu PF or CCC t-shirt while reading news.
“So, if ZBC has its own code of conduct, they will let that one go unpunished.”
Ncube’s sentiments were reinforced by Media Alliance of Zimbabwe programmes manger Nigel Nyamutumbu who said that “journalism and journalistic standards are universal and should never be distinguished on the basis of media ownership”.
“We are proponents of self-regulation which is a key principle which any democratic country uses to hold the media accountable.
“And by us compromising to co-regulation, essentially is to ensure that co-regulation is based on a strengthened industry led and that editors and journalists take an active role in the regulation of the media,” Nyamutumbu said.