THE Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Communications is investigating the delay by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) in issuing licences to independent community
and commercial broadcasters, the Zimbabwe Independent has been told.
At a meeting with the parliamentary committee, the Public Information Rights Forum (PIRF), a body of information officers in the Civic Alliance for Social and Economic Progress, presented “evidence on the delay in the entry of new players in the broadcasting sector” by BAZ.
In a recent press release, the PIRF raised several concerns to the committee, chief among them the lack of independence of BAZ. “The BAZ’s ‘independence’ is controlled by the minister (Professor Jonathan Moyo) who is a political figure,” the forum said. It said BAZ’s “structural and financial independence” must be guaranteed by law.
According to the Broadcasting Services Act, BAZ is the regulatory body which decides whether there is need to introduce new players in broadcasting, and recommends to the minister the potential licencees.
This, the forum says, compromises the independence of BAZ as “the minister himself has made prejudicial statements against prospective community and commercial radio broadcasters”.
Moyo said on several occasions in 2003 that licences would be issued to independent broadcasters by the end the year. On August 28 last year, the then chairperson of BAZ, Rose Mazula, told SABC that the authority would issue broadcasting licences by the end of the year.
The Chronicle carried a story on December 18 2001 quoting Moyo saying that individuals and organisations funded by foreign institutions would not be given licences to broadcast.
“If you carry foreign money in your pocket you can forget about getting a licence,” he said in response to reports that Radio Dialogue was intending to set up a station.
The PIRF said Moyo’s prejudicial statements against independent broadcasters were not in accordance with the law. “We believe that Moyo, because of his pre-judgements of independent broadcasters, is not a credible person to exercise such authority,” the forum said.
Also of major concern to the forum is “the subversion of the parliamentary process which has resulted in the legislature passing laws that hinder freedom of expression”. The Broadcasting Services Act and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act were cited as examples of such laws.
The Media and Information Commission, whose chairman is Tafataona Mahoso, is also under investigation by the parliamentary committee.
The committee will look at the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings, whose subsidiary companies like the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation have continued to monopolise the country’s airwaves.
The committee, headed by Silas Mangono, started its investigations in March and will present its findings to parliament when the House resumes sitting in May. Moyo could not be reached for comment as his cellphone was barred from incoming calls.