The Zimbabwe Media Commission, reconstituted in 2010 as a step to liberalizing the long-repressed sector, has proposed to set up media council to monitor practitioners, a move press freedom advocates say will put a chill on independent reporting.
Commission sources said the media council will function as a statutory body under the authority of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which press rights advocates say is repressive and should be repealed, to guide the industry with powers to see prosecute, suspend or withdraw the credentials of journalists.
Critics say the new council looks very much like the Media and Information Commission which shut down a number of publications under the previous government of President Robert Mugabe, including the independent Daily News in 2003 (since resurrected).
To some that is not surprising as the chief executive of the reconstituted Media Commission is Tafataona Mahoso, former chairman of the infamous MIC. Though he does not sit on the commission, he heads the secretariat, controlling administration.
Press freedom advocates say self-discipline by the media would be preferable.
Zimbabwe Media Commission Chairman Godfrey Majonga says that by law the council will work to protect and promote ethics and journalistic standards. He told reporter Sandra Nyaira the council will represent all media stakeholders.
Voluntary Media Council Director Takura Zhangazha said the proposed council will work under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which he says was put in place to repress free media expression. He says in such a political climate a statutory council would only stifle the freedom of the press and other media.