MISA (Zimbabwe) expresses shock and disappointment with the recently gazetted bills which seek to amend the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa), Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) and the Public Order and Security Act (Posa).
The proposed amendment Bills demonstrate government’s determination to maintain the status quo of the restrictive media freedom and freedom of expression environment through cosmetic amendments to the offending laws.
A critical analysis of the provisions of the Bills do not reflect any serious intentions on the part of government to democratise the laws in question in line with democratic principles that should govern media regulation.
The proposed amendments mostly dwell on peripheral and inconsequential administrative issues which do not advance even by a single inch the cause for basic freedoms such as the right to freedom of expression, media freedom and freedom of assembly and association.
Misa dismisses the proposed amendments as amounting to applying lipstick on a frog. Misa is greatly concerned that despite assurances to the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights that Aippa, among other contentious legislations will be amended to conform with the Declaration on the Principles of Freedom of Expression, the government is still proceeding to retain statutory media regulation through the proposed amendments.
Under the Bill the state-controlled Media and Information Commission (MIC) will retain its vicious spots despite the proposed name change to the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC).
The ZMC will still be tasked with the functions of media regulation, registration of mass media and accrediting of journalists. Members of the ZMC will consist of nine members appointed by the President from a list of persons nominated by the Parliamentary Committee on Standing Rules and Orders.
In a blatant disregard of the Banjul Declaration, the Aippa Amendment Bill proposes the establishment of a Media Council, appointed by the statutory ZMC, which will be chaired by a member of the same Commission. This flies in the face of the principles of media self-regulation which calls for the media to constitute and run its own affairs.
Loughty Dube is the Misa (Zimbabwe) chairperson,