GNU misses on media reforms

HARARE - Nothing lasts forever and we are all aware that the life of the four-year transitional coalition government is coming to an end.

There are many positives to be drawn from this political animal as well as so many negatives which justify the regrets by all the political parties in this arrangement.

For us in the media, the inclusive government has missed an opportunity, particularly the two MDC formations, to change the media landscape in this country.

Yes, the two MDC formations had a blue print to re-organise the State-run media, especially the Zimbabwe Mass Media Trust (ZMMT) and the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC).

ZMMT was formed in January 1981 to divest the State newspapers and the only news agency, Inter Africa News Agency (Iana) from control by South Africans.

Iana was later renamed Zimbabwe Inter Africa News Agency (Ziana).

ZMMT was established to facilitate vibrancy and independence within the Zimbabwe media.

But since 1981, ZMMT which houses government shares in the public-listed Zimpapers Group, has abdicated in its objective.
The unbundling of government shares (51 percent) in the ZMMT would have seen other investors snapping up a stake in the Zimpapers group, dismantling Zanu PF stranglehold on the group.

It’s business as usual at the State-run media where some of the titles have been used to spew vitriol against the two MDC formations and any group perceived to be against Zanu PF.

ZBC has remained a State broadcaster with specific mandate to air views that are consistent with Zanu PF ideologies.

Despite researches that have been done which highlighted the importance of government making the ZBC a public broadcaster, we are still stark with the old order.

ZBC should have been weaned from government support and have its operations government by an Act of Parliament from which a grant would support it.

That Act of Parliament would have enabled the august house to appoint a board consisting of professionals drawn from different sectors.

Sadly, these are two critical things that should have been done by the transitional coalition government.

While there have been partial reforms in the broadcasting services sector where two radio stations, with links to Zanu PF, have been licensed, we are a long way off from having independent broadcasters in the true sense of the word.

But as the inclusive government nears its end, we look back with regret at this missed opportunity. - Staff Writer

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