Saturday, 21 March 2015

IMPI media and information inquiry report released

The government- sanctioned Information and Media Panel of Inquiry (IMPI) on 18 March 2015 officially released its much awaited inquiry report and recommendations on Zimbabwe’s information and media sectors urging the government to review and repeal the country’s restrictive media laws.

The 666-page report was officially presented to the Minister of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services Professor Jonathan Moyo for government’s consideration by IMPI chairperson Geoffrey Nyarota at a handover ceremony held in Harare.
“The main recommendation is the need for review of existing media laws in line with the Constitution, including media regulation and removal of all penal measures and criminalisation.”
In its recommendation for repeal of laws such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, Broadcasting Services Act, Censorship and Entertainment Controls Act , Official Secrets Act and Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act, the report notes that:

“The orientation of laws affecting the information sector has been one of control, and not one of viewing this sector anew as a growth pole in the national economy. Legally, the information revolution has thrown up new issues to do with growth promotion, regulation, standards and protection of society from negative , harmful material.

“The main recommendation is the need for review of existing media laws in line with the Constitution, including media regulation and removal of all penal measures and criminalisation.”

The recommendations which in some instances dovetail with MISA-Zimbabwe’s standpoints on the undemocratic nature of the offending laws in question, comes at a time when the organisation has a Constitutional Court application for an order to declare criminal defamation unconstitutional.

“AIPPA should be repealed and replaced with a law that specifically provides for access to information with ample provision for protecting this right, including its expansion to information held by non-public bodies as envisaged in Section 61 of the Constitution, while media regulation issues are provided for under a separate law.

“There is need for all stakeholders especially government, to provide an enabling environment for accessing information held by public bodies. The state should make every effort to ensure easy, prompt, effective and practical access to such information and enact necessary procedures and legislation,” reads the report.

On privacy, surveillance and freedom of expression, IMPI recommends that the Interception of Communications Act should be updated to take into account technological developments in the media and information sector. This should be done to provide better protection and balance of citizens’ right to privacy and protection of state security and other aims of such a law.

“In particular the act should be amended to ensure that government only has access to technical data rather than the contents of communication, subject to judicial authorisation. The ICA should also be amended to require reasonable suspicion to be demonstrated before communications are intercepted, in line with practice worldwide.”

It is further recommended that the formulation of cyber-security laws should be done after wide consultation to ensure that digital technologies that facilitate social platforms “ are leveraged for social good, and to consider vulnerabilities at national and international levels.”

On broadcasting, the report noted that the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), had turned into a state broadcaster instead of a public/national broadcaster and that there was ‘too much bias” in coverage of political parties.

A law must therefore be enacted to define the editorial independence of ZBC which is guaranteed in terms of Section 61 of the Constitution. “A public service broadcasting model should be used to reposition ZBC, not a State-run model,” reads the report.

Priority should also be given on raising public and stakeholder awareness on Zimbabwe’s digitisation plans, challenges and what this will mean. “There should be adequate policy and funding support for the process and for local content production,” says the report. (for detailed positions and progress on the digitisation process, visit www.misazim).

As for community radio stations, the government through stakeholder consultations, should develop a licensing framework for community radio. The government should also establish and subsidise information centres/hubs to enhance access to information through local languages.

Due to advances in technology resulting in convergence of communication platforms, there is also need for a converged broadcasting and telecommunications legal framework that establishes an independent, converged regulatory body.

“The sectors of broadcasting media and ICT must be governed by one piece of legislation and the regulatory authorities overseeing these separate sectors (BAZ,POTRAZ), merged to form just one effective authority,” recommends IMPI.

On media regulation, the report says a separate media regulation law should be introduced to give effect to the right of media freedom, including protection of journalists rights and sources as well as the functions of the Zimbabwe Media Commission.

It further recommends for co-media regulation that combines statutory and voluntary regulation based on an agreed code of ethics.

“In the long term, there should be constitutional and legislative shift to allow self regulation of the media , in line with regional and international standards,” reads the report.
via IMPI media and information inquiry report released
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