Reform media laws, govt urged

HARARE - Media stakeholders have called on government to urgently reform media laws and open the space for new players, as plans to align the laws with the country’s Constitution are now in motion.

This emerged yesterday during a round table consultative meeting organised by the Information ministry, aimed at looking at issues that must be included when aligning media laws with the Constitution.

Different organisations, including the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), the publishers of the Daily News and the Daily News on Sunday, Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) and Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe, among others, attended the meeting held at the New Government Complex in Harare.

According to Rino Zhuwarara, who was chairing the meeting, Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa) and Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) are the two legislations which require alignment.

Alec Muchadehama, who was ANZ’s representative, together with company official Zweli Sibanda, said concerns that were under discussion are the same issues that had resulted in the violent closure of the Daily News in 2003, as well as the arrest of dozens of journalists who worked for the organisation.

He said after being set up in 1999, the organisation had seen a phenomenal growth but met serious problems after being physically attacked in 2001 and its subsequent closure in 2003.

Muchadehama said besides Aippa and BSA, there were a host of other Acts, which infringed on the rights and operations of media practitioners, these include the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation Act and the Postal and Telecommunications Act, among others.

“There must be a distinction between freedom of expression and freedom of the media when alignment kicks in,” he said, adding that, currently there is more to do with legislation and less to do with freedom in as far as the media laws are concerned.

He said there was need for certain laws to be redone as opposed to amending them, adding this was to be done in line with the Constitution and the outcome of the consultations.

ZMC chief executive officer Tafataona Mahoso also said there was need for the country to adjust the laws in line with global trends.

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