24 February 1998


Media conference campaigns for freedom of expression; looks at bill on broadcasting

Incident details

legal action

(MISA/IFEX) - Media workers in Zimbabwe have called on the government to
ensure that the proposed Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA), to be
established under Zimbabwe's new Telecommunications Bill, is legally and
actually free from state, government or party political control. They would
like to see the creation of a body which puts public interest first and
which supports the emergence and consolidation of public, community and
commercial broadcasting. Concluding a two-day workshop on the liberalization
of the Zimbabwean air waves , they called for a broadcasting regulatory body
which would be accountable only to the Zimbabwean people through parliament.
According to one resolution released at the end of the workshop, "the public
interest should underlie all aspects of communication policy, regulation and

**For background see IFEX press release dated 24 February 1997**

The workshop is the second in a series organized by the Zimbabwe chapter of
the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), the first of which was held
last year. Among other issues, this second workshop focused on the proposed
Telecommunications Bill and the creation of the IBA, an organization
designed to regulate and license telecommunications systems and postal
services and to issue broadcasting licenses.

Several aspects of the Bill were concentrated on in detail. Chief among
these is that its 95th clause gives the President powers, in the interest of
public security and law and order, to allow a licensee to intercept any
postal or communications transmitted by means of a telecommunication
service. Such power would have wide implications on issues of privacy and
censorship. Also discussed was the fact that the proposed law allows the
president to suspend any telecommunication services established or
maintained by the telecommunications licensee. It was pointed out that the
new Bill invests the Minister of Information, Posts and Telecommunications
with a lot of power, since he will be responsible, in consultation with the
President, for appointing IBA board members (clause 6) and will be in
charge of hiring and suspending IBA staff. (clauses 8, 10, 11, and 12).

Media workers are worried that if this law is passed as is it will derail
attempts to free the airwaves and create an independent communications
authority appointed to regulate broadcasting and telecommunications
activities in the public interest. According to them, "in a democratic
society... diversity of opinion should be related to the principle of
independence. Recognition of this principle is implicit in the establishment
of a Communications Authority as a body to regulate broadcasting or
telecommunications independently of state or commercial interests." A
counter proposal has been drafted with the help of Professor Ncube of the
University of Zimbabwe Law Faculty. This proposal, which underlines the
principles of public interest and independence, will be submitted by
MISA-Zimbabwe to the government in the near future.

MISA notes that the Telecommunications Bill was first proposed in 1997 and
is due to be debated in the Zimbabwe Parliament in March 1998. There is
still time for the public and interested parties to input their views before
the Bill becomes law.

Recommended Action

Send appeals to authorities:

  • campaigning for the freeing of the airwaves
  • urging them not to introduce legislation which stifles, rather than
    enhances, free speech
  • calling for the creation of a democratic IBA free from government control

    Appeals To

    Rt. Hon. Chen Chimutengwende
    Ministry of Information, Posts and Telecommunications
    8th Floor
    Linquenda House
    Box CY 1276, Causeway
    Harare, Zimbabwe
    Tel: +263 4 706891/3 or 706891
    Fax: +263 4 720982

    Rt. Hon. Speaker C. Ndebele
    Parliament of Zimbabwe
    Nelson Mandela Avenue
    P.O. Box CY 298
    Harare, Zimbabwe
    Tel: +263 4 708 921 / 729 722
    Fax: +263 4 795 548

    Rt. Hon. Minister Witness Mangwenda
    Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs
    5th Floor
    Corner House
    Samara Machel Avenue
    Harare, Zimbabwe
    Tel: +263 4 774 620 -7
    Fax: +263 4 772 993

    Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

  • Source

    Media Institute of Southern Africa
    21 Johann Albrecht Street
    Private Bag 13386
    misaalerts (@) gmail.com
    Fax:+264 61 248016
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