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in police state
May 07, 2012
With World Press
Freedom Day upon us, the question looms, will the Zimbabwe Media
Commission be successful with their plan to establish a statutory
ran an article last week about the "Renewed assault on media"
where they describe the council as a tool to further "police
journalists". Using neighbouring South Africa as an example
it might be wise to learn a lesson or two. The idea of a statutory
media council is something any democracy should celebrate, but,
as we-ve seen in South Africa, democracy is often left abandoned
on the sidelines where media regulation is concerned. It seems that
the Zimbabwean government, instead of learning from South Africa-s
detrimental decision to "privatise" information, are
forging ahead in a dangerous attempt to emulate them.
existence of the Voluntary
Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) Zanu PF politicians are urging
for a stronger clampdown on private media. With traffic police tormenting
Zimbabweans left right and centre, Zimbabweans will now face another
loss of a democratic right, their right to freedom of speech and
Having a voluntary
media council may not be what a fully-fledged democracy needs, Zimbabwe
quite clearly isn-t one and a voluntary council is the best
we can do. Media councils function to remove the political riff-raff
from media control and work purely as an objective media monitoring
body. While the VMCZ promotes a professional and free media environment
and is self-regulatory, this is an 'ideal- that won-t
hold for ever - see South Africa for proof.
The South African
media scene faced huge attack after a number of scandals and general
skulduggery and strengthened their 'self-regulation-
policy. However, because a few of the big boys were burnt on the
way, government made the anti-democratic decision to pass a privacy
of information bill. If the media had had a more stringent media
council to begin with South African media perhaps wouldn-t
have fallen prey to a predator they may well have welcomed into
is a totally different ballgame, we all agree, but while the VMCZ
is a novel idea self regulation doesn-t always work. Imagine
a state-owned paper regulating itself, the idea is laughable. Perhaps
the idea of having an 'objective- media council in Zimbabwe
is crossing the line from pure idealism into the boundaries of insanity;
we need to start asking the question "Well, what now?"
Zinef chairman Brian Mangwende describes the move by the ZMC to
constitute a statutory media council in terms of the "draconian
Information and Protection of Privacy Act" as "patently
undemocratic and designed to asphyxiate freedom of the press and
broadly freedom of expression."
With the new
constitution being hashed out as we speak, one wonders what lies
in store for Zimbabwean media.
In a country
where democratic rights are dissolving daily before us we need to
begin, once again, to take lessons from our neighbours. South Africa
fought to the death for their democratic rights under a government
whose systematic policy was to take these away and for 18 years
they have had freedom from Apartheid. We-re celebrating 32
years of freedom. Look around. Are we really almost twice as far
ahead? The answer is pretty obvious. It-s time to stop pussy-footing
around, Zimbabweans need to fight for democracy and take charge
of a country for the people, by the people.
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