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MAZ welcomes reforms to media law and calls for more amendments

DStv

The Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ) has welcomed recent Cabinet principles aimed at amending the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA), the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) Act and the introduction of the Bill of Media Professionals.

In a statement, MAZ president Perfect Hlongwane said these principles mark a significant step towards media law reform in the country.

“Noting this development, MAZ, in line with sustained advocacy interventions, political commitments and intellectual leadership on media freedom, access to information and freedom of expression, recognizes that when considering media laws, The government is taking steps to implement the media law reform agenda. “Hlongwane said

While praising the government’s efforts, Hlongwane highlighted several observations aimed at guiding lawmakers in the law-making process, and this includes observations on the Broadcasting Services Act Amendment Bill.

“MAZ welcomes that the law now requires the regulator to call for the provision of broadcasting services at least once a year. This will allow the entry of new actors and guarantee pluralism in the sector. It is also welcome that the law is deliberate to ensure gender equality within the leadership and, by extension, the operations of the regulator,” he said.

The Alliance, Hlongwane said, expressed concern over provisions that could potentially lead to media concentration and monopolization of the sector.

“However, the law should be further strengthened to protect the sector from multiple ownership, oligarchs and media concentration. Furthermore, the proposal to require all vehicle owners to obtain or be in possession of a Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) radio license before they can be issued insurance and a vehicle license is impractical and goes in against legal logic.

“Taxes must be collected and paid for the services that have been received or enjoyed. Vehicle owners without devices to receive radio services will be forced to pay for services to which they do not have access. In any case, not all vehicle owners have access to ZBC. While the need to recapitalize ZBC is noble, there is a need to expand reach beyond the state-controlled broadcaster,” he stated.

Additionally, MAZ called for an increase in the foreign ownership threshold to promote investment and ensure the sustainability of the media sector.

While welcoming the Zimbabwe Media Commission Act Amendment Bill, MAZ expressed concern over the provision that would make the Commission report to the Minister, stating that it compromises the independence of the Commission and, to minimize Due to interference from the Executive, the Alliance suggested that the Commission should be accountable to Parliament.

MAZ welcomed the government’s decision to introduce a separate law to regulate media professionals, giving effect to the principle of co-regulation.

However, the alliance argued that the existing complaints-handling mechanism and Code of Conduct, which are industry-led, should form the basis for any new structure emerging from the law-making process.

FCB