MISA-Zimbabwe Statement on appointments of media boards

misazimMISA-Zimbabwe is deeply concerned with the arbitrary and opaque manner pertaining to the appointments of the new board members for state funded and state controlled media bodies and corporations.

The appointments of individuals to the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ), Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings (ZBH) and Zimbabwe Newspapers Group, New Ziana, and Transmedia by the Minister of Media, Information and Publicity, Honourable Webster Shamu gives the immediate impression of a lack of transparency and accountability to the Zimbabwean public.

It is MISA-Zimbabwes strong view that the nomination and appointments to public bodies should have been characterised by broader public consultation and not only in so far as it pertains to who can be appointed to these boards, but also the very nature of the Acts and Statutes that establish these media regulatory bodies which to this day remain patently undemocratic.

It is apparent that the haste and secrecy concerning the appointments to these regulatory boards was intended to limit the extent to which the public as well as the Parliament of Zimbabwe can oversee the appointment process. It is also regrettable that these appointments only serve to undermine the agenda of consulting media stakeholders on key challenges and the envisaged reforms of the media – a process that has been stalled since the Ministrys Media Stakeholders Conference held in May 2009 in Kariba.

Further to this, MISA-Zimbabwe can only construe these appointments as an attempt by the responsible ministry to undermine the necessary democratic reforms of the media in Zimbabwe. As MISA-Zimbabwe has sated both publicly and to the government before, such reforms would, among other important results, lead to the reform of the ZBC from a state to a truly independent public service broadcaster; the introduction of a singular telecommunications law that would establish and independent telecommunications authority to oversee both frequency allocations and broadcasting; and the limiting of the role of the government in the print media.

A further disturbing development is the fact that a total of eight retired senior military officials are also among some of the board members appointed by the Ministry. While it remains the right of any Zimbabwean to serve the country in whatever democratically arrived at government position, it is extremely disturbing that retired brigadiers and colonels would be seconded in such numbers to civilian regulatory authorities. MISA-Zimbabwe is therefore wary of the potential for the militarisation of the media at a time when it should be democratised.

MISA-Zimbabwe reiterates its calls for the repeal of the undemocratic media laws that empower the Minister with the wide discretionary appointing powers. These are notably the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA), the ZBC Commercialisation Act, the Interception of Communications Act as well as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA).

It is imperative that the government begins the process of establishing independent regulatory bodies more so as it pertains to broadcasting and the imperative need to transform the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation into a truly independent public broadcaster.

Post published in: Politics

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