STAKEHOLDERS in the media sector have called for the disbandment of the Media and Information Commission (MIC) saying it has failed to come up with a code of conduct and was not properly con
In a joint submission to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Communications on Monday, the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists, Misa-Zimbabwe and the Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe said the MIC has seriously undermined the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of expression and media.
“The MIC is mandated to, among other things, ensure that Zimbabweans have access to information and effective control of mass media.in order to foster freedom of expression in Zimbabwe,” their presentation says, adding: “The MIC has in fact done the opposite.”
In the three years since its inception, the MIC has shut down and denied an operating licence to the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe, publishers of The Daily News and The Daily News on Sunday.
It also suspended The Tribune’s operating licence in June 2004 and has not reinstated it after its one-year suspension lapsed.
“The reasons given by the MIC for the denial of a licence and/or closure of these media outlets in our opinion do not override the fundamental constitutional right to freedom of expression,” the stakeholders said.
They said the MIC has also failed to come up with, or enforce professional and ethical standards in the mass media to ensure accurate, balanced and unbiased reporting by the media and the development of a media that upholds professional and ethical codes of conduct.
“It has been three years since the MIC was established but it has not come up with any publicly-known code of conduct. This is a dereliction of duty and we therefore submit it to you that the MIC has no basis for regulating the journalism profession because it does not have guidelines,” their submission said.
“Even if the MIC had met these requirements, we are concerned with the manner in which the commission was appointed and the background of those who sit on the commission’s board (who) neither represent journalists nor publishers who should have a say in the regulation of the media.
Therefore, the MIC is not a professional body and should not preside over the regulation of the journalism profession. Journalism like any other profession should be left to regulate itself.”
The stakeholders recommended that the media should be regulated through a voluntary Media Council run by media practitioners and publishers.
“With the aim of reviewing media policies to be consistent with the constitutionally guaranteed and accepted norms of democratic practice, Aippa should be repealed or extensively amended to do away with the MIC and transform the legislation into a genuine access to information law instead of the current situation where it stifles access and undermines freedom of expression. The regulation of the journalism profession should be left to a voluntary Media Council run by media practitioners and publishers,” the stakeholders said.
Misa and the Zimbabwe National Editors Forum, together with other stakeholders, have already proposed such a council.