Confusion reigns on media commission nominations

misaThe autonomy and independence of parliament risks being seriously compromised in a development that also puts into serious question the inclusive governments respect for constitutional provisions and media freedom.

This follows reports of the alleged suspension of the nominating process for candidates to the envisaged statutory Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC). The state-controlled national weekly The Sunday Mail reported in its edition of August 16-22 2009 that the process to nominate candidates to the ZMC, Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) Anti- Corruption Committee (ACC) and Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), had been put on hold. Interviews for the latter three respective constitutional bodies are still to be conducted.

The weekly reported that Zanu PF, MDC-M and MDC-T the three parties that constitute Zimbabwes inclusive government, might now have to forward nominees for appointments to the constitutional bodies in question on the basis of proportional representation.

On 5 June 2009 an advertisement was placed in The Herald calling for applications to the Zimbabwe Media Commission and three other separate commissions namely, Zimbabwe ZHRC, ZEC) and ACC.

On 3 August 2009 a five-member panel comprising members of the parliamentary Standing Rules and Order ROC duly proceeded to interview a total of 27 potential candidates to be short listed for appointment to the ZMC in terms of Section 100N of the Constitution of Zimbabwe as amended through Constitutional Amendment No 19.

Meanwhile, this latest development pertaining to proportional representation comes on the backdrop of earlier assertions by the Speaker of Parliament Lovemore Moyo dispelling state media reports that the process had hit a snag. The Speaker was quoted in The Herald of 5 August 2009 saying: I am happy to say we have fully concluded the matter with 12 names to be sent to His Excellency (the President) and six to be sent to the Minister of Media, Information and Publicity anytime from now.

In terms of the constitution, 12 nominees selected by parliament (SROC) would be submitted to the President who would then appoint nine members including the chairperson to serve on the ZMC. The other list of six would be submitted to the President who will in turn appoint three members to serve with the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ).

However, The Sunday Mail reports that this process would now be reversed and selection would now be on the basis of proportional representation.

MISA-Zimbabwe position

MISA-Zimbabwe insists and reiterates that media self-regulation underpinned by a constitutional provision guaranteeing media freedom and the establishment of an independent broadcasting and telecommunications authority is the best system of instilling professionalism in the media.

A free press as opposed to one controlled by the state will help in keeping the state at arms length as well as foster media diversity, pluralism, independence and responsible journalism through a self-regulatory mechanism accountable to the reading and viewing public.

MISA-Zimbabwe is of the firm view that implementation of the reversal process would be ultra-vires the constitution which is the supreme law of Zimbabwe and should not be tolerated and sacrificed on the altar of political expediency. It is further noted that the bodies in question are supposed to be served by independent persons as opposed to their political affiliations as is being suggested now through the proportional representation system.

These acts of impunity should not continue to hold sway especially where respect for constitutional provisions is concerned.

What is even more shocking is that these developments come on the backdrop of Parliaments unconstitutional and unprocedural decision allowing the SROC to bundle the ZMC interviews with those for the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) and short listing six names for the ultimate nomination by the President of three that will serve on the BAZ. The advertisements placed for applications to be submitted for interviews that were eventually conducted by the Committee were specifically for the ZMC and made no mention of the possibilities of the interviewees being also considered and short listed for BAZ appointments.

MISA-Zimbabwe has since written to the Speaker drawing his attention to the fact that the advertisements and call for applications was largely for constitutionally established Commissions and not necessarily statutory boards such as the BAZ. In his letter to the Speaker, MISA-Zimbabwe Chairperson Loughty Dube highlighted that BAZ is not a constitutionally established Commission neither is it defined as a Commission in terms of the Broadcasting Services Act. In terms of Section 4 of the enabling act (the Broadcasting Services Act as amended in 2008); the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe is a board to be established in terms of the Act and not in terms of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.

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