Government should not control the media - Tsvangirai

by Andy Sennitt.

The leader of Zimbabwe’s Movement of Democratic Change (MDC), Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, said on Wednesday night the the government had no business in controlling the media. “I do not support the arguement that due to the potential power of the media, the state has an obligation to ensure it is properly regulated, ” he told guests at the launch of the Public Broadcast Media in Zimbabwe report. “I do not believe in regulation of the media; instead, I am a strong proponent of the view that due to its very power and inalienable right of freedom of information, freedom of expression, the state should play no role in its regulation. Instead the media, like many other professions, should operate largely on the basis of self regulation.” He said true democracy was dependent largely on a free press.

Zimbabwe still has only one radio and television station while the state-owned Zimpapers enjoys control of the print media landscape in Zimbabwe. The Government recently disbanded the Media Information Commission (MIC), which was responsible for making hundreds of Zimbabwean journalists jobless by requiring registration and also by closing down newspapers.

The government has since appointed the former head of the MIC, Tafataona Mahoso, who is described in journalistic circles, as the ‘media hangman’, to the newly constituted Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ), which will be responsible for licensing radio and television players. But Mr Tsvangirai dismissed the Mahoso appointment, saying it had not been finalised and agreed to.

The government has also interviewed prospective candidates, through parliament, for the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) to replace MIC, but President Robert Mugabe still has to officially announce the composition of the commission. Speculation has it that Henry Muradzikwa, a former Zimbabwe Broadcasting, Zimbabwe Inter-Africa News Agency and Sunday Mail Editor and Chief Executive Officer, will head the new commission.

However Mr Tsvangirai said it was not the sole responsibility for Mr Mugabe to choose commissioners to the ZMC but a collective responsibility of all leaders of the Global Political Agreement (GPA), which brought about the new government in February after the intervention of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in the political crisis in the country. “A few weeks ago, the two of us (Mugabe and Tsvangirai) met and agreed on the composition of the ZMC and I am confident that it will turn out to be a fair, representative and progressive group of people that are determined to put the best interest of nation and its people above all other considerations,” said Mr Tsvangirai.

He castigated the state-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation for not being a true broadcaster. He said its services left a lot to be desired. The report he launched calls on the enactment of a new ZBC Act that will transform the ZBC into a truly public broadcaster and a non partisan appointment of a new ZBC board.