MISA criticises government for maintaining broadcasting controls

misa_zimbabweSections of Zimbabwes government are still fighting plans to liberalise the airwaves, a media organisation has said, despite promises of change,

The Media Institute of Southern Africa Zimbabwe (MISA) says that independent broadcasters are not allowed to operate in Zimbabwe because of resistance from the top.

Zimbabwes unpopular state broadcaster has maintained a monopoly on the airwaves and is used by ZANU PF as its mouth piece. Robert Mugabes party has forced through laws which have maintained the ban on independent broadcasters, while journalists working for independent newspapers are still harassed. Others have been tortured and many have fled the country.

On Monday, Nhlanhla Ngwenya director of MISA, attacked the unity government for its failure to help democracy in Zimbabwe. The issue is we are dealing with some pockets in government who do not want to see a liberalised media environment, he said. Hoping to come up with an ideal broadcasting model for the country, MISA held a broadcasting conference in Harare last Friday.

The meeting was attended by 50 participants made up of journalists and civic organisations, as well as the state broadcaster. Also present was a representative from the Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio, which joined calls for a repeal of the repressive laws.

This conference managed to re-state civic societys position around the broadcasting sector, particularly repressive laws. We re-stated our dislike for the situation as it stands at the moment, he said. The resolution we came up with is the repeal of laws like the Broadcast Services Act (BSA) and an overhaul of the policy framework itself. MISAs advocacy programme will be informed of that way forward, he said.

MISA pointed to the unpopular BSA which gives only the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) the authority to issue licenses. And BAZ has still made no effort to licence any independent broadcasters. We wanted to have BAZ present, but then they pulled out last minute. They did not give reasons for not coming, Ngwenya said. Ngwenya also defended the fact that MISA had asked ZANU PF Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, a well-known ZANU PF opponent of democracy, to open the conference. He said it was a way to bring negotiators to the table.

However, Chinamasa did not turn up and the Industry Minister Welshman Ncube opened the ceremony instead.

Zimbabwe is widely known for its laws which are hostile to the media, such as the Criminal Law and Codification Act which focuses on what it calls publishing false statements prejudicial to the state plus penalties for undermining the authority of the President. Another law, the controversial Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, states that journalists must be accredited to work in Zimbabwe, yet accredited journalists are often still prevented from doing their work.

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