Farirai Machivenyika Senior Reporter
The move by Government to revive the Zimbabwe Mass Media Trust (ZMMT), which is mandated to oversee operations of news organisations where the State has significant shareholding, is a welcome development that should strengthen ethical conduct in the industry.
This was said by the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) following assurances by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Mr Nick Mangwana that the Board of Trustees would be appointed soon.
Mr Mangwana said this when he appeared before the Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Information, Media and Broadcasting Services on Wednesday.
ZMMT was established by Government in 1981 to bring Zimbabwean ownership to the largest media house, the Zimbabwe Newspapers (Zimpapers) group and the national news agency, Ziana.
It would also act as a buffer between Government and media companies with State shareholding, but has not been operational since 2001.
The trust had shareholding and responsibility over Zimpapers with 51 percent of the shares, Kingstons (100 percent), Ziana (100 percent) and Zimbabwe Information Services, which was acquired by Ziana.
In his remarks to the committee, Mr Mangwana said his ministry believed in transparency.
“The current leadership in the ministry believes in proper governance. We are working to ensure that the ZMMT is back with its full membership of trustees.
“Soon, the committee will hear who their President would have appointed as Trustees of the Mass Media Trust to work as a buffer between the ministry and the State media,” Mr Mangwana said.
ZUJ secretary general Mr Forster Dongozi welcomed Government’s move to revive ZMMT.
“The revival of the Zimbabwe Mass Media Trust is a welcome development and was long overdue and we congratulate those who have been brave enough to break from the past,” he said.
“The revival of the ZMMT should strengthen ethical and professional conduct in the industry.
“Of course the devil is in the detail and issues such as which deed of trust will be used.
“If it will be a strengthened deed, it will be critical, including on those who can be appointed as trustees and how those appointments would be done.”
Mr Dongozi added it was also critical that views from media stakeholders be taken on board in the revival of the Trust.
The moves to revive of the ZMMT follows various other reforms that Government has embarked on to open up the media space and improve access to information.
Parliament is currently debating the Freedom of Information and the Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill aimed at enhancing access to information.
Government also recently appointed the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe board which is expected to result in the expeditious issuance of licences to other private broadcasting players.