Amending of ZMC Act begins

ZMC deputy chairperson Jasper Maphosa

THE Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) has announced that the process of amending the ZMC Act, which is the main law that governs the commission and its functions, has begun. The amendment is aimed at providing for media governance, registration, and accreditation provisions that will remove impediments that affect the media industry.

(ZMC) deputy chairperson Jasper Maphosa announced this at a stakeholders’ dinner held in Bulawayo on Thursday evening.

The meeting was meant to share notes on the expected role of the media, the challenges they face, and the opportunities they have. The meeting also served as a platform for the commission to communicate with stakeholders its programmes and projects lined up in its Strategic Plan, which includes the amendment of the ZMC Act.

Among the attendees of the dinner engagement were the commission chairperson Professor Ruby Magosvongwe, executive secretary Godwin Phiri, and National University of Science and Technology (Nust) dean of students in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies, Professor Bhekinkosi Jakobe Ncube.

“We cannot remain mired in the past, the demands of the country are constantly shifting and changing, we used to have the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), and the process of unbundling it was done and two legal instruments that rose out of that are the ZMC Act and the Freedom of Information Act but we still have the legal gaps we need to plug in,” said Comm Maphosa.

Maphosa said AIPPA had issues with regulation, access to information, accreditation, and registration of journalists packaged in one act, which was a problem. He said the media reform process anticipated at least four laws to emerge from one act.

“The process of having these laws saw some of the issues being left out of the ZMC Act and as such it was thought wise to have a different law that looks at issues of media regulation and professionalising the media. That has not been done as of now so the issue is to tap into the legal gaps that are there,” said Comm Maphosa.

Adding to the same issue, Comm Tanaka Muganyi said the amendment process was also driven by the realisation that there was no clear definition of what media and media practitioners were.

“We have been having challenges with some of the media practitioners to say the classical view of media being journalism has been superseded and made to change through innovations in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) world where every Tom and Jerry can purport to be a journalist.

“We need to clearly define who is a journalist, or media practitioner because the law at the moment does not spell out that role,” said Comm Muganyi.

ZMC is one of the five Chapter 12 Independent Commissions whose purpose is to foster a democratic society driven by respect for the Constitution, rule of law, democracy, and human rights, among other objectives. The commission’s main focus is on the promotion and protection of freedom of expression and the media, and the promotion of accountable governance through facilitating public access to information held by public entities for transparency, accountability, and protection of human rights.

Like other independent commissions, ZMC is expected to monitor compliance with constitutional provisions across the public and private sectors, to receive complaints from the public, and to take appropriate action where necessary.

Apart from Constitutional provisions, the ZMC is guided by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [Chapter 10:33] and the Zimbabwe Media Commission Act [Chapter 10:35]. Under the FOIA, the Commission is required to review decisions relating to access to information held by public entities and to rectify any failure to meet prescribed standards. The Commission receives appeals from members of the public who are denied access to requested information as per the provisions of the law.

Herald

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