Home 9 Media freedom 9 Minister’s height of dishonesty

Minister’s height of dishonesty

4 Aug, 2017
Recent remarks by the Minister of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services, Christopher Mushowe, about the impartiality of the state-controlled ZBC are deceptive.

Minister of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services Christopher Mushowe’s recent remarks relating to the impartiality of the state-controlled Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) can only be described as deceptive.

Mushowe was responding to questions raised by parliamentarians on 2 August 2017 relating to ZBC’s programming and its licence fees.

Harare West MP, Jessie Majome, asked the minister whether it was ZBC’s editorial policy to ‘favour’ the ruling Zanu PF against other political parties.

In his response, the minister said Zimbabwe’s opposition political parties should inform the public broadcaster when they have programmes that need coverage. He said ZBC was ready to cover ‘any worthy’ programmes or activities by the opposition and that this was already happening.

MISA Zimbabwe would like to remind the minister that ZBC’s partisanship and biased coverage is well documented. Reports by civil society organisations such as Media Monitors Zimbabwe (formerly Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe) and Zimbabwe Election Support Network, attest to ZBC’s inequitable and biased coverage of political parties, especially during elections.

Observations made by the Constitutional Court in July 2016 when it affirmed the legality of ZBC licence fees, are also telling in that regard. The court stressed the need for ZBC to be impartial and afford fair opportunity for presentation of divergent views and dissenting opinions.

The ruling was made in a matter dating back to 2012 involving two applicants, Bernard Wekare and Musangano Lodge. Both applicants were facing criminal charges under the Broadcasting Services Act after failing to pay licence fees.

Several reports, including those by relevant Parliamentary Portfolio Committees; even the ministry’s very own sanctioned Information and Media Panel of Inquiry, Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s 2013 report and elections observer missions, have repeatedly pointed out ZBC’s deficiencies as a public broadcaster resulting from its political capture and abuse by the ruling party and government.

Without its transformation, ZBC as it is currently constituted, cannot objectively and impartially evaluate the ‘worthiness’ of opposition political parties activities, as posited by the minister.

Despite this, ZBC has statutory obligations to exercise editorial discretion and judgments in the public interest. This should include creatively covering the political parties instead of waiting for notification of their activities. This would ensure desired balance in the coverage of political parties.

MISA Zimbabwe, therefore, urges the government to ensure citizen participation in the transparent and democratic appointment process of the ZBC board, while securing and guaranteeing its independence and accountability in carrying out its public service mandate.

This should be underpinned by implementing the long overdue media reforms in line with provisions of the Constitution, IMPI recommendations and the African Charter on Broadcasting.

About MISA

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) was founded in 1996. Its work focuses on promoting, and advocating for, the unhindered enjoyment of freedom of expression, access to information and a free, independent, diverse and pluralistic media.

Share this

Related news

Report on Cybersecurity and Cybercrime in SADC now available!

Report on Cybersecurity and Cybercrime in SADC now available!

We are happy to release a report on Cybersecurity and Cybercrime Laws in the SADC Region: Implications on Human Rights. Below is an excerpt from the Executive Summary; This report focuses on enacted and proposed cybersecurity and cybercrime laws in the SADC region and...

MISA acting regional director Moyo elected into GFMD board

MISA acting regional director Moyo elected into GFMD board

MISA Regional Secretariat acting director Tabani Moyo was elected into the Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD) Steering Committee (the board) at its elective Annual General Meeting held in Tirana, Albania, on 30 September 2021. Moyo, who is also the national...

Community radios key to access to information in marginalised areas

Community radios key to access to information in marginalised areas

MISA Zimbabwe welcomes the licensing of eight more community radio stations as this will enhance access to information and exchange of ideas on issues that affect marginalised communities for the government’s attention. The national geographic spread of the licensed...

MISA appeals to Mnangagwa to decline signing Cyber Bill into law

MISA appeals to Mnangagwa to decline signing Cyber Bill into law

MISA Zimbabwe has appealed to President Emmerson Mnangagwa to decline signing into law the Cybersecurity and Data Protection Bill following its passage in the House of Assembly and Senate saying the Bill still requires further scrutiny. In his letter to President...