Zim forges ahead with opening airwaves

19 May, 2022 - 00:05 0 Views
Zim forges ahead with opening airwaves Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa

The Herald

Patrick Chitumba-Midlands Bureau Chief

Zimbabwe is forging ahead with opening of the airwaves to achieve digital rights through safeguarding citizens and content creators’ rights to free expression and access to information, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said yesterday.

The process of aligning laws to the 2013 Constitution saw the unbundling and replacement in 2019 of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) through the gazetting of the Freedom of Information Bill and the Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill.

In addition, the Cybercrime and Cybersecurity Bill was merged with the Data Protection Bill to produce the Cybercrime, Cybersecurity and Data Protection Bill in 2019 . 

Speaking to delegates attending the writeshop on the alignment of legislation to the Constitution, in particular the Broadcasting Services Amendment Bill 2021, in Gweru yesterday she said the writeshop bears testimony to the efforts being made by Government in realigning the legal and regulatory framework to the provisions of the Constitution. The amendment Bill seeks to address lack of diversity and plurality in broadcasting.

The Second Republic led by President Mnangagwa believes in engagement and unity of purpose.

“This is why as Government we made the decision to have these consultative processes as we realign our laws to the Constitution. It is my hope that we will all work together during this process and come up with a law that speaks to the needs of the Zimbabwe media sector and its practitioners as well as our vision as a nation ensuring that we leave no one and no place behind as we march towards Vision 2030,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.

She noted recent improvements in the media sector. 

“The Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) was repealed and in its place was enacted, the Freedom of Information Act and the Zimbabwe Media Commission Act , in an effort to realise freedom of expression. We are also working on the Media Practitioners Bill which will focus on co-regulation in the sector,” said Minister Mutsvangwa.

So far Government has licensed 14 community radio stations and six national free-to-air television stations.

“Seven campus radio stations have also been licensed to improve campus communication as well as provide media students with practical broadcasting skills such that they are ready for the market at the time they complete their studies. All this was achieved in a space of three years. The media landscape in Zimbabwe has surely been transformed for better with both plurality of channels and a diversity of players,” she said.

“The Government is forging ahead with opening of the airwaves to achieve digital rights through safeguarding citizens and content creators’ rights to free expression and access to information.” 

Minister Mutsvangwa said the Broadcasting Services Amendment Bill principally seeks to align the Broadcasting Services Act Chapter with the Constitution and also with the Public Entities Corporate Governance Act as well as modernise it in line with technological advancements.

“The Act was last amended in 2007. Certain sections of the Act have become inconsistent with the new Constitution, something which has necessitated the current alignment process. Technology has also evolved rapidly over the last few years pointing to the need for the broadcasting laws to be modernised.

“From this writeshop it is my expectation that we come up with a law that ensures diversity in the broadcasting sector, enables capacitation and sustainability of community radio stations and facilitates participation of the diaspora in the broadcasting industry, among other milestones,” she said.

“It is my hope that after our deliberations and agreed on proposals, the legislative process will be expedited at the Attorney General’s office.”

Minister Mutsvangwa said Government does not want a repeat of the 2019 scenario where stakeholders gathered in Nyanga for a writeshop similar to the Gweru one but the proposed changes were overtaken by events and not actioned.

“I therefore appeal for prompt action to be taken in ensuring that this Bill becomes law. As we deliberate let us bear in mind that the last Broadcast Service Amendment Bill was presented to the Cabinet Committee on Legislation which took certain positions on different clauses. You will be advised on what those clauses are and what position was taken,” she said.

The Broadcasting Services Amendment Bill seeks to address lack of diversity and plurality in the sector.

The Bill seeks to further open up the airwaves by licensing community and campus radio stations and privately owned TV stations.

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