Media stakeholders ‘cautiously’ optimistic of govt’s engagement on media policy reforms




By Tafadzwa Muranganwa

Media associations are not overly satisfied with   the latest  engagements  being undertaken by the government on media  reforms.

Recently, the Ministry of Information,Publicity and Broadcasting Services now led by minister Monica Mutswangwa and permanent secretary Nick Mangwana held meetings with media stakeholders to formulate media reforms that will improve the media landscape in Zimbabwe which has over the years been grappling retrogressive media laws, a partisan public media and lack of community radio stations among many others.

Presenting feedback to fellow media practitioners on the submissions made by media organisations at the engagement meetings, Media Alliance of   Zimbabwe programmes manager Nigel Nyamutumbu said while they welcome the overtures being made by the new government  to address the various impediments for  media development in the country,the sector is being taken aback by the exerting force exhibited by the government.

“Though credit should be given to the new establishment for having started policy dialogue around media reforms   we are cautiously optimistic owing to the way the engagements are being done  where the government has over-arching influence,” bemoaned Nyamutumbu.

The MAZ programmes manager revealed that there was a bone of contention on media investment where the government is insisting on shutting out foreign investment.

“What we have ascertained is that government don’t want to budge on allowing sponsorship and donations from foreign sources despite that  it is preaching ‘open for business’ which we find contradictory,” argued Nyamutumbu.

There is the need to amend the Broadcasting Service Act to create an enabling environment for the licensing of community radio stations, according  to  Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations(ZACRAS)  national co-ordinator Vivienne Marara .

“We made proposal around amending the BSA which has Section 28  which stipulates that only body cooperates can be able to run community radio stations but  we are saying  the setting up and  organisation of community radio stations can be done under trusts, associations, foundations or such other legally recognisable structure,” she proffered.

Marara says her organisation   also appreciated the promise by government to license  10 community radio stations next year but was taken aback by a tweet by the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services a day after their engagement  which sort to define the operations of  a community radio  station.

The tweet reads,

‘Community radios should be run by the communities themselves. They should not be managed, influenced or controlled by outsiders. The same way government can build a community centre or library and hands it over to a local trust to run is the same way with the community radios,”  .

In response, ZACRAS   agrees with the content of the tweet in as far as the role of the community is defined but disagrees in totality with the implied arrangement of government setting up community radios and then handing them over to community.

Laws such as Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act(AIPPA) of 2002, curtail rather than promote freedom of information and the Media Institute of Southern Africa has been pushing for repeal of this act.

To date the country has no single licensed  community radio station despite  it being a  signatory to treaties like , Windhoek Declaration, African Charter on Broadcasting, Banjul Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa which all encourage the 3 tier broadcasting system-public, commercial and community.