Liberal laws open up media environment: Paradza

The Government has opened the media operating environment through enactment of liberal legislation which saw the licensing of several entities to increase diversity in the sector, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Deputy Minister Kindness Paradza, told the National Assembly yesterday.

Speaking while responding to a report by the Portfolio Committee on Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services on the operations of media during the Covid-19 lockdown he said: “President Mnangagwa’s administration has allowed the media to occupy their space. We have protected safety of media practitioners while doing their work. We have empowered them by repealing the draconian Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and replaced it with more friendly pieces of legislation like the Freedom of Information Act and the Zimbabwe Media Commission Act,” he said.

“In addition, we are currently seized with a raft of amendments to the Broadcasting Services Act to be in sync with international best practices and not only that, this administration is also drafting, in consultation with stakeholders, the proposed Media Practitioners Bill.

“This Bill is meant to protect the profession of journalism from chancers, pretenders and impostors who have polluted the media landscape masquerading as professional media practitioners.”

The Government has licensed six commercial television stations and 14 community radio stations as part of opening up the airwaves. Authorities need to licence radio and television stations because there are limited available frequencies. Print and digital publications do not have to be rationed.

Deputy Minister Paradza bemoaned the continued polarisation of the media landscape saying this had tainted the image of the country, adding that corruption had also blemished the media sector.

He added that the ministry was concerned about the working conditions of journalists, which he said were characterised by low salaries and shortages of tools of trade, among other challenges.

Turning to the measures taken by the ministry in light of the lockdown measures, Deputy Minister Paradza said the industry had been designated as an essential service while journalists were also prioritised in the vaccination programme. On the digitisation programme for broadcasting, he said lack of funding had hampered progress of the project that was initially scheduled to be completed in 2017 with only 18 of the 48 sites having being completed to date. He called on Parliament to lobby Treasury for the release of funds to complete the project. Herald

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