MEDIA representative bodies and other stakeholders have backed calls for the co-regulation of the industry as reforms in the sector gather momentum.
Speaking during a stakeholder engagement on the media law reform agenda in Harare on Wednesday, representatives of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ), Zimbabwe National Editors Forum (Zinef) and Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) said co-regulation was the ideal framework for Zimbabwe.
They also concurred that the Media Practitioners Bill should govern the media with a single code of ethics and conduct to professionalise the industry.
Zinef National Co-ordinator Mr Njabulo Ncube said: “Our position on co-regulation is clear. We support co-regulation in which there is a clear regulatory body with representatives from the Government and industry. There should also be agreed rules of the game”.
On the Media Practitioners Bill, Mr Ncube said the position of editors is that it must facilitate better ethical practices. Addressing the same gathering, MISA Zimbabwe they support the Bill as it advocates co-regulation by the media itself as well as any regulatory body.
MISA legal and information communication technology policy officer, Ms Nompilo Simanje, said the repealed Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa) was the basis of the Media Practitioners Bill.
Ms Simanje said the repeal of Aippa in 2019 and its replacement by the Freedom of Information Act, allowed media practitioners to gain access to information.
She said the Zimbabwe Media Commission played many roles, including being the main voice in advocating the Freedom of Information Act. But that Act spoke to the functions of the commission, not co-regulation or basic principles of the media in Zimbabwe.
Ms Simanje added that the Cyber and Data Protection Act of 2021 impacts the media as it amends the Criminal Law Code and the Interception of Communications Act.
“It prohibits the dissemination of false data messages of an identifiable person.”
Media lawyer Advocate Chris Mhike said industry-driven and self-regulation are vital in the way media professional lives are governed.
So it was also crucial for all the people to attend the public hearings and media to cover issues pertinent to the implementation of the law.
“Traditionally the media is ideally self-regulated in most countries. Currently we have dual regulation by the State and Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe.”
In 2019, the Government agreed that co-regulation was the ideal regulatory system to adopt for the Zimbabwean media fraternity and other studies agreed.