Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
The Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill must have a converged accreditation process, rather than maintaining the state of affairs where there are multiple bodies registering media practitioners, legislators recently heard.
Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services heard that the creation of additional bodies accrediting journalists other than the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) was untenable and created unnecessary bureaucracy.
This was said by Media Institute of Southern Africa legal representative Mr Chris Mhike during a stakeholders’ public hearing consultative meeting in Harare, called by the portfolio committee to solicit views on the ZMC Bill.
“There are too many bodies that deal with regulation of the media. We ought to be moving towards a converged regulatory body mechanism,” he said.
“Let us aim at regulatory convergence and that convergence is not adequately dealt with in this Bill. We will propose that there be a mechanism under the Bill to ensure that we limit bodies that journalists must report to or must be subservient to.
“I have spoken to sports journalists who said when they go to sports events, some of the bodies do not recognise press cards issued by the ZMC, so in addition to the press card, they have to undergo a registration process with various sports bodies.
“During election season, ZEC is the regulatory body and has a separate accreditation process of journalists. That is not acceptable. Even Parliament do have another process of accrediting journalists. I understand there might be administration processes, but what we see in reality is that there is more than just administration procedure, but a multiple layer of registration and accreditation by various bodies.”
Meanwhile, media practitioners in Midlands province have expressed concern over the accreditation of unqualified journalists, a development which they attributed to the decline in quality, professionalism and standards of the profession.
This emerged during the ZMC Bill public hearings in Gweru conducted by the same committee.
Dr Lyton Ncube from the Media and Society Studies Department at Midlands State University (MSU) said it was incumbent upon media practitioners to protect their profession by not allowing ZMC to accredit unqualified people.
“We talk of media regulation which must be there to protect citizens, but we need media autonomy and media freedom,” said Dr Ncube. “Multiple and diverse opinion must be addressed. I think the Bill must clearly elaborate on knowledge of the people accredited by ZMC.
“We may need to clarify the issue of qualifications for one to be accredited as a journalist because we will end up having alien people coming to see over media. We want to avoid victimisation. We should start raising awareness.”
Editor of The Sun community newspaper Willie Mponda called for co-regulation of the media in an endeavour to uphold journalistic standards and professionalism.
MSU lecturer Dr Zvenyika Mugari said the commission should deepen freedom of expression and that of the media.
“Clauses should speak more on how the commission will be instrumental for Zimbabweans to enjoy freedom of expression and the Press,” he said.
The portfolio committee chaired by Binga North MP Mr Prince Sibanda will table a report of its findings when the Bill is debated in the National Assembly.