Journalists Riled At Return Of Zimbabwe's Media Hangman

Journalists have already expressed displeasure with the appointment of the controversial Mahoso who was adjudged the worst among a list of 27 candidates who were interviewed to serve as commissioners in the ZMC last year. During his tenure at the now defunct Media and Information Commission (MIC) Mahoso presided over the closure of at least four newspapers, the deportation of several foreign correspondents and the arbitrary arrest, detention and malicious prosecution of hundreds of local journalists, editors and publishers.

The ZMC which is chaired by former broadcaster Godfrey Majonga appointed Mahoso as its chief executive officer and will run the secretariat which will receive and process applications from journalists and media houses seeking registration with the statutory body.

But ZMC commissioner Chris Mhike told journalists Tuesday that Mahoso will not interfere with the registration and licensing of journalists and newspapers.

“The decision makers at the ZMC are the nine commissioners. Dr Mahoso will not decide about ZMC. He will just implement the decisions of the commissioners. The use of the MIC secretariat is purely for practical purposes….There is problem with capacity. So ZMC is making use of the secretariat that used to serve MIC,” said Mhike who was a panellist during a discussion organised by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Zimbabwe) and the Zimbabwe Journalists for Human Rights (ZJHR) to mark World Press Freedom Day in the capital.

Mhike, who was the star of the show during interviews held to appoint ZMC commissioners last year, said critics must not be concerned with personalities in assessing whether the ZMC will be able to discharge its duties.

“If we start looking at personalities it will delay the cause of media reforms in Zimbabwe. Personalities do matter but we have pressing issues at hand,” said Mhike.

Human rights and media bodies have expressed concern with the appointment of Mahoso and staff from the defunct MIC to preside over the licensing and registration of journalists and newspapers.

“Although ZLHR notes recent developments such as the establishment of a new Zimbabwe Media Commission, the gazetting of fees for registration and accreditation, and the call for applications for such registration and accreditation, we remain concerned that this new body will continue to rely on the personnel from the old discredited and partisan Media and Information Commission which wreaked such havoc and untold suffering on journalists and media houses in this country in the past,” ZLHR said in a statement to mark World Press Freedom Day.

The ZMC is expected to licence new media players and drive media reforms as part of the democratic process agreed to by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and President Robert Mugabe when they established the transitional coalition government.