RELATIONS between the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) and the Media and Information Commission (MIC) further chilled this week with commission chairman, Tafatao
na Mahoso, accusing Misa of operating as an “outlaw” outfit.
In June Mahoso wrote to Misa demanding that the media advocacy group register with his commission because it was a media organisation. Misa did not immediately comply saying it was seeking clarity from the MIC on the reason why it should register.
In an interview on Wednesday Mahoso said Misa did not register because it wanted to operate as a media commission. He branded Misa an outlaw organisation and said others were in the same position.
“The problem is the set-up of Misa and the Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe (MMPZ). There is a conflict in jurisdiction and mandate,” he said.
“They expected to be made the commission and they literally masquerade as one. They should know that a private organisation cannot make a commission,” he said.
MMPZ yesterday dismissed Mahoso’s assertions.
“Whilst I cannot speak for Misa, MMPZ has no intention of taking the place of the MIC,” MMPZ coordinator Andrew Moyse said. “It sounds like he feels threatened by our organisations, which existed long before the MIC.”
Mahoso said the Daily News, which has challenged registration in the Supreme Court, needed to register with the commission as well.
“They have defied legislation and so they too have the status of an outlaw,” said Mahoso.
“The Daily News has the option of registering before the judgement is out. Misa should go and register. We want to avoid going to the courts because it’s very expensive,” he said.
“The last resort is to go to jail. They are seriously pretending to be ethical and upholders of values when they violate the law,” he said.
Misa in a statement said it had only sought clarification from the commission.
“In January Misa-Zimbabwe initiated dialogue with the Media and Information Commission to seek clarity on a wide range of issues of concern to our membership and to us as an organisation.”
“At the time, other than the promulgation of the Broadcasting Services Act and Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, media practitioners were being given very little information on the mandate of the Media and Information Commission. As a result there was a great deal of uncertainty over a number of issues,” Misa said.
“Misa-Zimbabwe has a number of matters that it is concerned with as far as Aippa is concerned. These include the work and composition of the MIC itself. We believe some of such concerns can be addressed through engagement with the MIC and other authorities,” it said.
According to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, media organisations which do not register with the commission can be fined up to $300 000 or its principals imprisoned for up to two years, as well as having their equipment forfeited to the state. Asked why the commission had not enforced this clause, Mahoso said the process was under way.
“We are doing it step by step. But the arm of the law is very long. Nyaya haiori (crime does not rot). It might take even two or four years,” he said.