Zimbabwe: New Deputy Minister Promises Media Reform

Regulation & Policy

A day after being sworn into office, Jameson Timba, the Deputy Minister of Media, Information and Publicity says his immediate task will be to restore media freedom in the country.

He said this will include working on the immediate return of closed publications and the freeing of the airwaves. Timba will work alongside ZANU PF Minister Webster Shamu, who has reportedly ordered the state media to start reforming by toning down it's inflammatory language against the MDC.

It is understood Timba, the outgoing chairman of the Association of Private Schools and a media columnist, has laid out a plan that he has already presented to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai that will involve asking Parliament to repeal the government's tough media legislation. He has also promised to look into the issue of banned international news organisations such as the BBC and CNN. He has pointed out that the Global Political Agreement, signed by all parties to the inclusive government, calls for the country's tough media laws to be changed and to allow private radio, television and daily newspapers to operate under a unity government.

Zimbabwe's Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), is currently one of the harshest media laws in the world, under which journalists can be jailed for two years for working without a licence from the state Media and Information Commission.

The Criminal Codification Act imposes sentences of up to 20 years in jail on journalists or other citizens, convicted of publishing false information or statements that are prejudicial to the state.

A source told us the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists was preparing to make its representations to the new ministers, on the need to speed up the process and ensure they start work on the deregulation of the draconian media laws.

Sunsley Chamunorwa, a former editor of the Financial Gazette, said; 'If the state media can criticise the government and report things as they are and allow other media players to operate, only then can we say there seems to be some kind of reform in the country.'

SW Radio Africa