Thursday, May 05, 2011

28 new media houses open in Zimbabwe

COMMENT - Please explain again how Zimbabwe is 'a dictatorship'.

28 new media houses open in Zimbabwe
By Kingsley Kaswende
Wed 04 May 2011, 13:50 CAT

Zimbabwe has licenced 28 new media houses over the past 15 months, a media commissioner has revealed. Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) chairman Godfrey Majonga said at an event to mark World Press Freedom Day that despite working on a constrained budget, his commission had managed to open media space by licensing various media houses.

“Since assuming office in February 2010, ZMC has met with challenges militating against the rolling out of action meant to improve the media environment for the benefit of all stakeholders,” he said.

“Notwithstanding budgetary constraints which characterise all Government funded entities, the commission managed to achieve much with very limited resources. Since assuming office, the commission managed to issue out licences to 28 new houses.”

Zimbabwe is carrying out media reforms in accordance with the provisions of the agreement that established the inclusive government two years ago.

The reforms are part of the requirement for the country to conduct democratic elections that will end the inclusive government.

Previously, the country had a regime of stringent media laws that saw the banning of various foreign media, closure of newspapers and radio stations as well as several arrests of journalists.

But the media space is now opening up thanks to reforms the inclusive government is pursuing.

However, Majonga bemoaned the uncompetitive remuneration in the media industry.
He said the high number of newspapers on the market should translate to competitiveness in salaries earned by journalists.

At the same occasion, Zimbabwe’s information minister Webster Shamu said journalists in the country must operate freely but within the confines of the law.

Shamu said the country had law that needed to be respected by all people living and working in it.

“We will leave no stone unturned in ensuring genuine freedom of journalists and media houses,” Shamu said.

“Media houses should operate freely but freely in terms of our own laws.”
He said mass media should be encouraged to play a positive role in educating and raising awareness of the public about developmental goals.

Shamu said people had the right to enjoy equal rights, solidarity and self-determination through communication and information.

“Governments are obligated to set up complaints procedures entitling citizens to pursue complaints against mass media services and obtain redress without having to hire expensive lawyers,” he said.

The Zimbabwe chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) urged the Zimbabwean government to open up the electronic media space in accordance with international declarations.

The electronic media space continues to be closed with no licence being granted since the reforms began.

“MISA-Zimbabwe however, notes with great concern that 10 years after the crafting of the African Charter on Broadcasting (ACB) and enactment of the Braodcasting Services Act (BSA), Zimbabwe is still far from fulfilling the three-tier broadcasting system as envisaged under the Charter. The three-tier system comprises public broadcasting, private commercial broadcasting and establishment of community radio stations,” MISA stated.

“A majority of the 14-member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) now boast of a plethora of privately owned broadcasting stations and community radio stations. Zimbabwe thus remains stagnated as a monolithic pariah state whose airwaves continue to be monopolised by the state controlled Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC).

While the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) has taken commendable steps towards fulfilling the obligations of the Windhoek Declaration for a diversified, pluralistic and independent media environment by licensing more than 20 media houses in the print sector, the broadcasting media environment remains restricted and constricted.”

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