Media practitioners should be accountable for their actions: Minister Muswere Dr Jenfan Muswere

NRTV presenter Tendai Garwe had an interview with Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister, Dr Jenfan Muswere (JM) on the show, “Yes Minister” on Sunday. The programme focuses on what will be happening in Ministries. Here are the excerpts of the interview. Continued from yesterday

NRTV: What other issues will the Media Practitioners Bill address?

JM: It will deal with the membership, the qualifications, the expectations, the training, the professionalisation of media practitioners as we journey towards an upper middle income society.

Bringing on board the approval of the principles of the media practitioners Bill will go a long way to curb some of these challenges. So after this, we will engage in legislative processes and all media practitioners are in a position to participate; to contribute towards the development of the Media Practitioners Bill. We believe that as soon as the Media Council is established, then media professionals will be in a position to regulate themselves.

NRTV: A Media council, will it not clash with the (Zimbabwe) Media Commission. What is the role of the council?

JM: No, it will not clash. The council will have delegated authority. And the secretariat still belongs to the Zimbabwe Media Commission. The Zimbabwe Media Commission is a Chapter 12 institution with the supreme responsibility and authority to look after the media issues. But there’s also a need to professionalise, to deal with other issues, to define who is a journalist and who is not. Because in this particular case, the registration can mean any other person, but we have to define that in terms of education. And the first and most important issues that we have to define and agree on is that journalism is a profession. It is the moment we define that it means we now need to develop the industry.

NRTV: How do we develop the industry?

JM: We have to have ethics. We have to have a code of conduct. We have to ensure that journalists, media practitioners are accountable for their actions positive or negative, that there is a complaint mechanism, which also allows the public, to report some of the issues taking place within the media industry, but also for the media practitioners themselves to report to each other so that we straighten some of the challenges.

So the Media Council will run along the lines of the Law Society of Zimbabwe where lawyers govern themselves, their conduct. The brown envelope system will come to an end.

We are certain that journalists are professionals, media practitioners are professionals. They should be able to govern themselves, but principally, the supreme institution will be the Zimbabwe Media Commission.

So there will be no clashes, but we need to define who is a media practitioner and who is not, because, the fourth industrial revolution has brought about citizen journalism.

It has also brought about, data imperialism and social media imperialism.

NRTV: How are we going to professionalise media houses or social media? How are we going to balance it?

JM: We can be able to balance the media practitioner and who isn’t. But this information has been generated and disseminated by media houses. So this is citizen journalism, this is too opinionated but this is factual. This is credible and it is based on facts.

NRTV: So do those operating on social media have to register with the council?

JM: That is part of the legislative process. We’ll get to know precisely what the people of Zimbabwe want because there is a Parliamentary process, the public hearings. So at the end of the day, the legislation is being developed for the people of Zimbabwe.

So the final output, will get to know but it is the Government’s intention to ensure that we recognise media practitioners as professionals in terms of the law that they are in a position to be able to work together with the Zimbabwe Media Commission to develop ethical conduct frameworks within the media spaces.

NRTV: And how about those who are not objective in their reportage, those who report negatively on Zimbabwe?

JM: The legislation is not there to infringe on the freedom of expression. It is not there to impede or inhibit access to information. The legislation is there to professionalise journalism, to ensure that there are ethics, there is code of conduct, that there are parameters which govern who is a journalist and who is a media practitioner and who is not. The registration defines also the roles and responsibilities of the media council; the functions of the media council.

It is about strengthening the media industry. It is about the education system, the training that is required for a person to be recognised as a journalist. It is about the robustness of the media industry. Because what we take into consideration and of importance is that we underline the importance of Section 61 and 62 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, which deals with the expression, freedom of expression, which also deals with access to information.

And the Second Republic has achieved so much in terms of media reforms. You realise that only under the leadership of President Mnangagwa we repealed AIPPA. It was an issue that had been raised by media houses. According to the media houses, it was draconian. It inhibited the growth of the media industry. It is also under the leadership of President Mnangagwa that we have managed to develop and also to pass legislation such as this Zimbabwe Media Commission Act, the Freedom of Information Act. And we are now working in terms of the amendments to the Broadcasting Services Act.

Of importance, what we highlighted in terms of policy is that we should be able to tell the correct Zimbabwean story; the transformation of the economy. We had a GDP of around $16 billion. Now, where are we? We are at $46 billion. That is the role of the media to tell the story. The media should take a leading role to tell the correct story about Zimbabwe. In some cases we have some who are journalists and some who are not journalists, who have not been able to tell the correct story about Zimbabwe.

Some of these people, they are blind to all construction projects that are taking place in our country. They are blind to the housing boom. They are blind to the reality that we now have 10 600 dams, they are blind to the reality that we are achieving in terms of our GDP per capita. They are blind to the liberalisation of the media industry; they are blind to all the achievements that under the leadership of President Mnangagwa we have been able to score.

They are blind to all the positive things; they only see the negative parts. But we also want to underline the importance of the watchdog role of the media industry. That they have a role to play in terms of the Constitution. And we fully support the development of the media industry.

NRTV: What is going on concerning the liberalisation of the media industry?

JM: So basically, there’s been that challenge. There was the first phase of the ZIM Digital project, which focused on the development and direction and installation of transmission infrastructure across the country. So the first phase is done, it had its own share of challenges and success stories as we moved from analogue to digital. And I can say we registered success on the first phase.

Now we are done with the second phase in terms of the development of the manuals, the development of the blueprints required for us to be able to launch the ZIM Digital Phase Two project. So within a month, we’re taking it to Cabinet. This involves the importation of technology, and also the convergence between ICT and information publishing and broadcasting services.

The participation of Zimbabweans as we deploy this transformation infrastructure across the country for us to be able to ensure that we leave no one and no place behind. The refurbishment of the existing infrastructure, but of principal importance is the standards and the regulations governing the transmission from analogue to digital in terms of the International Telecommunications Union. And we’ve had quite a number of challenges in Africa in terms of the movement from analogue to digital.

So the second phase is coming. The feasibility studies are done. The framework to launch the second phase is done. The collaboration and the infrastructure sharing that will take place between Transmedia and the Telcos between the Ministry of ICT and the Ministry of Information for us to be able to bridge that information gap.

The second phase will be launched before the end of this quarter. And we’ve been in discussions with various contractors because what we are mainly interested in is the importation of technology.

The rest, in terms of the passive infrastructure that we have identified quite a number of companies that should be in a position to work together with international companies for us to deploy the transmission equipment.

But also of importance is that most of the passive infrastructure that we have in our country and that we share technology between ICT and the information publishing and broadcasting services. So there will be that joint harmonised effort under a whole Government approach for us to be able to achieve and bridge that digital divide, that information divide.

You recall that in the Ministry of ICT we had done the National ICT Policy, the National Broadband Plan, and also the Smart Zimbabwe Master Plan. All these policies speak to information published in broadcasting services. And we’ve done a lot of consultations when we developed these three key policies.

And of importance is that we’ve reached that point of convergence.

NRTV: So Zimbabwe will get to a point where everyone will watch and hear and say and speak the same language because we are seen all over the country.

JM: Yes, that is the vision and the mission of the ministry. But not only is it a vision and a mission. It is also backed up by the launch of the ZimDigital, the second phase, which also involves the refurbishment of transmission equipment and infrastructure. It also involves the development of content hubs across the country.

Because broadcasting is part of an ecosystem, which ecosystem relates to heritage-based broadcasting, which relates to sports, arts, and culture, which relates to our rich history, which relates to current affairs but also which relates to the diversity and also to the liberalisation that has been brought about by the New Dispensation. Now we have the NRTV, we have 3K TV, we have many other radio stations disseminating information. And we are satisfied, especially by the cost-cutting measures of setting up a studio. We are also satisfied by the cost-cutting measures related to overhead expenses, but also principally the miniaturisation of broadcasting that has been brought about by the new players.

NRTV: Now it is mandatory for motorists to first purchase a radio licence before acquiring vehicle insurance cover. Can you explain further on that?

JM: The issue is in terms of the legislation. We are governed by the laws of Zimbabwe. The Broadcasting Services Act is very clear in terms of the payment of the listener’s licence. It is also very clear in terms of the definition of who is a dealer and who is not, who is a receiver and who is not. So what is taking place in terms of the approvals of the principles of the Broadcasting Services Act. What we are focusing on is the alignment of the legislation. This is precisely what we are focusing on.

Last part in tomorrow’s edition



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