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Unjust media regulation a threat to democracy

Speaking at a discussion forum hosted by Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ) marking the second anniversary of the Daily News on Wednesday, 24 April 2013, Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) Director Mr Takura Zhangazha said that stringent laws and bureaucratic legal framework is a major threat to democracy in Zimbabwe.

 

Zhangazha argued that after four years in power there has been largely token appreciation of the democratic value and importance of the media, access to information and freedom of expression by the Inclusive Government of Zimbabwe.

 

"This tokenism has found expression through the incremental and 'gatekeeping' approach to media reforms that have been undertaken by the Inclusive Government where it comes to opening up the media in its holistic sense (print, broadcast and ICT based).   Moreover, the government has sought more a quantitative approach to media reforms with the simplistic assumption that 'the more the merrier, € added Zhangazha

 

The VMCZ director said that one of the reasons of disputed elections since 2000 was the deliberate stifling of the media, access to information and broader freedom of expression by the state as exemplified by the current thoroughly bureaucratic legal framework.

 

"Zimbabwean media has at least four statutory regulatory bodies where and when it comes to elections, electoral processes and in general. These are namely the Zimbabwe  Electoral Commission, the Zimbabwe Media Commission, the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe and the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority and the Zimbabwe Republic Police, € Zhangazha said.

 

Also speaking at the same discussion forum Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front  (ZANU PF) member and chairperson of the Federation of Non-Governmental Organisations, Mr Goodson Nguni  noted that he does not believe in media regulation and control.

"I do not believe in media regulation and control. I tell colleagues from ZANU PF that we should engage the private media, € said Nguni.

 

He however noted that there is nothing wrong with a newspaper coming out in support of any political party.

"I would like a situation where a media house can declare that they support this political party. However we must not ascribe to the view that the media should become political commissars of political parties. The media should report on issues in a non-partisan and objective manner, € added Nguni.

 

Participants at the discussion also noted the critical role of the media as watch dogs of the government and society in the upcoming elections.

 

Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), Ms Runyararo Munetsi urged the media to play an investigative role, by exposing anomalies during elections and also providing people with voter education information.

 

Director of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI) Mr Pedzisai Ruhanya also noted that the media should be the vanguard of democratic struggles in Zimbabwe and people should make informed decisions based on what they get from an independent media. He pointed out that laws such as Access to Information Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) remained an "aberration € to press freedom and should be reformed.

 

Media freedom is one of the key issues that the Inclusive Government of Zimbabwe (IGoZ) agreed to address before elections. However it is argued that little has been done regarding the repeal of repressive legislation and ensuring media freedom as stated in Global Political Agreement.

 

The event attended by political parties, members of the press, civil society and academia.

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