Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
JOURNALISTS in Bulawayo are divided between co-regulation and self-regulation of the media as Government moves to craft a new Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) law to govern the operations of the Fourth Estate.
This emerged yesterday during Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill public hearings conducted by the Information and Media Parliamentary Portfolio Committee chaired by MDC Alliance National Assembly member Mr Prince Dubeko Sibanda.
Co-regulation of the media refers to partial Government control as well as independent media control of the sector while self-regulation speaks to media independently dictating its operations.
Media practitioners converged at a Bulawayo hotel where they deliberated on the ZMC Bill and media regulation was the most topical issue.
Zimpapers Bulawayo branch managing editor Isaac Waniwa said the ZMC Bill was crucial as it would impact on the media landscape even for future generations.
“What I want to address is the issue of co-regulation. ZMC is already in the Constitution and arguing about removing it, I think is trying to move mountains. But what I think is very practical I think is co-regulation. What do I mean? ZMC should concern itself with accreditation, administrative issues but when it comes to professional conduct then it must be left to another body (Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe) which someone has already mentioned or whether we believe it must be strengthened is another issue,” said Waniwa.
He said VMCZ can work to rein in journalists’ conduct while ZMC can serve as an appeal body in case aggrieved individuals are not satisfied with response from the media professional body.
“As already mentioned by my colleague here other professions are already regulating themselves and I believe it’s only the professionals who are able to checkmate their colleagues, who are able to investigate any complaints coming from members of the public,” he said.
Waniwa’s sentiments came after other journalists had lobbied for self-regulation of the media.
Journalist Nkululeko Sibanda said the media has shown that it has capacity to self-regulate as witnessed by the establishment of VMCZ.
“My most favoured approach in terms of media regulation in Zimbabwe is self-regulation as opposed to State regulation. In this I mean that there is need to allow journalists like doctors, lawyers and other institutions to regulate themselves. Because what State regulation will obviously do, is to criminalise the profession in the event that a journalist does something that may appear as mistakes to those in the corridors of power,” said Sibanda.
Another scribe, Admire Kudita said journalists should be allowed to regulate themselves as this will strengthen democracy in the country.
He had reservations on the Bill’s clause that gives minister(s) of information power to appoint ZMC commissioners, saying the commissioners should be appointed through Parliament to strengthen Chapter 12 institutions.
Another participant said the Bill does not state how long a ZMC chairperson should serve.
She said that the Bill should set a timeframe to curb corruption that sometimes comes with staying for too long in a position.
The committee’s chairperson Mr Sibanda said his committee was there to listen to practitioners’ views on the Bill with the view of incorporating them in promulgation of the law. — @nqotshili