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MAZ Welcomes Media Law Reforms, Calls for Further Amendments

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

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

“In noting this development, MAZ pursuant to sustained advocacy interventions, policy engagements and thought leadership on media freedom, access to information and freedom of expression acknowledges that by considering media laws, government is initiating steps to set the media law reform agenda in motion,” Hlongwane said

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

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

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

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“However, the law should be further strengthened to safeguard the sector from multiple ownership, oligarchs and media concentration. Further, the proposition to mandate every vehicle owner to obtain or be in possession of a Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) radio license before they can be issued with a vehicle insurance and license is impractical and defeats legal logic.

“Taxes should be charged and payable for services that have been received or enjoyed. Vehicle owners without devices to receive radio services will be forced to pay for services they have no access to. In any event not all vehicle owners have access to ZBC. While the need to recapitalize the ZBC is noble, there is a need to widen the scope beyond the state-controlled broadcaster,” he said

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

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

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

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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.

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