MISA Zimbabwe is encouraged by the robust and non-partisan debate in Parliament on 24 September 2020 on the Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill. This is a positive and progressive step towards promoting democratic governance in Zimbabwe.
It is the constitutional role of Parliament to protect the Constitution and ensure the State and all institutions and agencies of government act constitutionally and in the national interest. The Constitution, in defining the role of Parliament, further states that all institutions and agencies of the State and government at every level are accountable to Parliament.
This was displayed when parliamentarians from across the political divide pushed for media players to have a greater role in the regulation of the industry. The parliamentarians were particularly incensed with a clause in the Bill allowing the police to assist in an investigation by a media regulatory body.
The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Ziyambi Ziyambi, had earlier said it was mandatory for the police to be involved. Minister Ziyambi was steering the Bill on behalf of the Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Monica Mutsvangwa. However, the parliamentarians, notably Honourables Kindness Paradza (Zanu PF) and Tendai Biti (MDC Alliance) stood their ground arguing that this was not the agreed position.
MP Paradza said the clause was retrogressive as it was previously provided for under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), which has since been repealed. MP Biti said the clause stifled media freedom and freedom of expression. He said defamation was not a criminal offence, and that in any case, criminal defamation was decriminalised by the courts. Other contentious issues pertained to co-regulation of the media.
MP Paradza argued that the agreed position was that there should be co-regulation of the media which allows media players to play a critical role in the regulation of the industry. Minister Ziyambi subsequently conceded to removing the contentious clause (involving the police in investigations) and adjourned debate to allow for further consultations on how to deal with the issue pertaining to regulation of the media.
The arguments by the parliamentarians dovetail with the agreed positions by media stakeholders such as MISA Zimbabwe and the umbrella media body, the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe.
Source: Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA Zimbabwe)