ZMC launches media council

HARARE - Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) yesterday officially launched the new Zimbabwe Media Council, a new statutory body which aims to use repressive media laws to enforce media professionalism.

Godfrey Majonga, ZMC chairperson announced that former ZBC chief executive Henry Muradzikwa will chair the regulatory board.

Other councillors are ZBC chief executive officer, Happison Muchechetere, Zimpapers chief executive, Justin Mutasa, Major Tikiwa, Ben Madzimure, Tryson Mudariki, Medline Dube, Blessing Jona, Sister Veronica Dinga and Forward Gundu.

Majonga said there was need to form the statutory council ostensibly because  self-regulation was inefficient and was open to manipulation by the media.

The council has the power to “delete” errant journalists from the roll of accredited journalists and shut down media houses.

The launch of the council comes hardly a day after Media, Information and Publicity minister Webster Shamu threatened to use the ZMC to shut down media houses that insult the country’s leadership.

Press freedom groups boycotted the launch.

Brian Mangwende, chairperson of Zimbabwe National Editors’ Forum (Zinef) dismissed the council and said the regulatory body seeks to punish and pursue vindictive agendas against the media houses.

“Cognisant of the need not to criminalise the work of journalists, Zinef distances itself from the spirited and sustained move to launch a statutory media body by the government using the repressive Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa) to police the work of journalists,” Mangwende said.

“Journalists are not above the law, but arresting and banning journalists is an attack on press freedom. The ZMC Media Council is not only targeting the media but ultimately the capacity of the people of Zimbabwe to speak.”

Njabulo Ncube, chairperson of Media Institute of Southern Africa-Zimbabwean chapter, said: “We are against the council because it does not advance  freedom of expression or the media. The council will not be independent of ZMC and therefore we will stand by the need to have a self-regulatory body rather than a statutory one.”

Self-regulatory body, Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe said the council is undemocratic and it is not in the best interests of journalists.

“Regardless of this unfortunate development, the VMCZ shall however, continue its mandate as governed by its constitution, membership and stakeholders,” VCMZ said in a statement.

Foster Dongozi, secretary of Zimbabwe Union of Journalists said his organisation is for a self-regulatory body and it will engage with all stakeholders to try and come up with a voluntary media council. - Lloyd Mbiba and Wendy Muperi

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