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The case of a critical dozen: Unpacking IMPI recommendations  

MUTARE– Recommendations of the Information and Media Panel of Inquiry (IMPI) report were on the spotlight as a civic organization unpacked its findings to stakeholders recently.

Panelist of the IMPI, legal practitioner Gift Mapimbiri, said the findings from the consultative outreach programme compelled the recommendations  to be focused on three facets of government, media and consumers.

Of the various recommendations set to inform policy reforms, there were twelve proffered by Mapimbiri, as a critical dozen.

Mapimbiri was addressing a public meeting organised by Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zimbabwe, Mutare Chapter to discuss recommendations of the IMPI report.

“I have identified 12 recommendations which I feel are the critical dozen but they in no way are an end to themselves. The recommendations are there to inform policy reforms,” he said.

Of the recommendations in the IMPI report Mapimbiri said there was consensus that media laws should be realigned to Section 61 (2) of the Constitution which guarantees media freedom.

“There were several recommendations from the report but one thing that really stood out as key was the issue of realigning media laws to be in sync with section 61(2) of the Constitution,” he said.

Mapimbiri also identified issues of gender parity in appointment of boards, which provide structural oversight of media houses, like the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe. He said it was also highly recommended that these appointments be professional and not politicized.

On the third critical recommendation, he said there was need for government to put a licensing framework for community radio station to enable the country tom achieve the three tier broadcasting system.

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The high taxation regime imposed on private media owners was identified as a fourth critical component which needed reform to ensure sustainabiAClity for players in the industry.

Mapimbiri also said it was recommended that the public broadcaster Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) should be recapitalized so as to produce quality content which recognizes the diversity of citizens. This recapitalization should ensure that ZBC is also accessible in all parts of the country.

“We have issues of gender parity in relation to appointment of boards like BAZ which was also seen as a major concern in our findings, it was therefore recommended that these appointments be professional and not political.

“The issue of high costs of running business was also seen as holding back private media growth as there were calls for the review of the taxing regime to ensure sustainability and profitability of media houses.

“It was also highly recommended that the public broadcaster be recapitalized to ensure quality programming as well as enhancing accessibility by increasing the spectrum range in all parts of the country,” he said.

Other recommendations identified as the critical dozen, the sixth dealt with the monitoring and regulation of news and social media use, with calls for a research into the best practices on how to ensure responsible use of such platforms.

Mapimbiri said the issues of theatre and other social platforms of information dissemination were raised as priority for citizens who also called for information centres in their communities.

Depoliticisation of the highly polarized media landscape was also identified as the eighth critical point in ensuring sanity in the media industry.

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“Other issues raised also include the monitoring and regulation of new and social media in the face of some abuse by citizen journalists who do not follow some ethics adhered to by mainstream media.

“This also led to recommendations around the resurrection of theatres and other social platforms, where it was called for the better use of such platforms to disseminate information. It was also recommended that there be setting up of information centres to assist communities to access information.”

On polarized media he said “It was recommended that the media landscape be depoliticized as there was too much polarization with the onus placed on the media to be more professional and convey the broader message to people.”

Journalist and media practitioner’s training was also recommended as the ninth critical component as well as the issue of having a national code of conduct to guide operations of all journalists in a uniform manner.

Journalists’ remuneration was also raised as the penultimate point with the issue of digitalization of the media landscape completing the critical dozen of recommendations.

The IMPI recommendations are part of the process instituted by the Ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services in 2013. The process began with the appointment of 28 panelists from media, academia, arts and legal sectors to spearhead an inquiry into the state of information and media industry in Zimbabwe.

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