Tsvangirai And Shamu Differ On Media Reforms

Tsvangirai who was addressing journalists and Kuwadzana residents to mark World Press Freedom Day was contradicted sharply by the minister who was giving a speech to also commemorate the day at a different venue.

Shamu told a function organised by the parliament appointed Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) that government controls on the media should remain because media reforms were not benefitting the public.

Tsvangirai said unfortunately current provisions of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) did not allow the new government to fire Shamu. He said the minister was refusing to take orders because “he is listening to someone above him”.

Shamu has refused to re-constitute the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) board which has so far given out two radio licenses to players believed to be sympathetic to the former ruling Zanu (PF) party. Zimpapers, wholly owned by government through the Zimbabwe Mass Media Trust and Supa Mandiwanzira, a journalist turned businessman, were awarded licenses ahead of about 15 others who had applied.

Tsvangirai said Zimpapers should concentrate on newspapers and let other players enter the broadcasting sector to fulfil GPA requirements of media pluralism.

Shamu has since been ordered to appear before a parliamentary committee to answer the slow implementation of media reforms as agreed in the GPA.

Tsvangirai accused the state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) of bias against his party.

“It is as if I have committed a crime the manner in which ZBC are hostile to me,” he said. “Even the ministers who are working for the nation are also being vilified.
“We should have as many news outlets as possible before the elections to allow you to make your own choices,” he said, amid applauses.

The commemorations, organised by media watchdog, Media Institute of Southern Africa- Zimbabwe chapter, were dampened after the police restricted participants to just 100 people.

Tsvangirai described the directive by the police as a clear violation of people’s rights to access to information.

Meanwhile Shamu said: “I can assure you that as we go into fresh harmonised elections this year people will be asking questions about the alleged benefits of press freedom to them and about the demonstrable results of all the reforms introduced in the media sector and in related areas in 2007.Are the benefits only in terms of increased numbers of publishers and broadcasters? Has the quality of public information improved?” asked Shamu at a local hotel.

“It was clear that behind the sweeping reforms of 2007-2011, there were promises and claims by media associations and activists to put their own house in order by exercising more and better professional responsibility in relation to the general public and exchange for the relaxation of direct state controls.”

Shamu, who is also the Zanu (PF) political commissar, said media representative bodies had failed to regulate themselves.

Tsvangirai’s MDC-T has taken the issue of media reforms to President Jacob Zuma who is the Zimbabwe crisis mediator.