The government of Zimbabwe has been urged to ensure that the Broadcasting Services Act aligns with the Constitution.
The Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa), the Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (Zacras), as well as the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ) have also insisted that the government should engage relevant stakeholders for input before enacting the provisions.
The Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) – the principal legislation regulating the country’s broadcasting industry – was imposed in 2001 and has since been left unchanged, and petitions were made calling for its amendment.
According to the parties (Misa Zimbabwe, Zacras and MAZ), the amendments should be in line with the provisions of the Constitution that allow for freedom of speech.
“We hoped that the outcome of the broadcasting law and regulatory framework would be in line with the Constitution of Zimbabwe, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Declaration on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information and the African Charter on Broadcasting, as well as the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms, among other organisations that set democratic principles and standards on regulation,” the Misa statement stated.
The parties also mentioned that there is a great need to refine the broadcasting regulatory framework as the current legislation placed excessive powers on the Minister of Information to appoint the board of the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) and influence its functions and operations.
“It is our view that these powers jeopardise the independence of BAZ, a threat that goes against democratic principles of broadcasting regulation,” they mentioned.
During the workshop, other civic society organisations reached a consensus that called for the cancellation of the provision that seeks to regulate social media, stating that its implementation posed a potential threat of infringing rights to freedom of expression.