The Movement for Democratic Change formation of Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is considering going to court to challenge the legality of the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe as presently constituted, MDC sources said.
In a two-pronged approach, the MDC has also taken the matter up with Parliament seeking to nullify authority board appointments by Information Minister Webster Shamu, a senior official of President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party.
MDC sources said the move to challenge is now more urgent given word that Zimpapers, recipient of a commercial FM radio license, also intends to seek a television broadcasting license. Zimpapers Chairman Paul Chimedza has confirmed his group’s interest in TV.
The Broadcasting Authority’s recent distribution of commercial radio licenses only to applicants linked to ZANU-PF or state media has caused tension in the national unity government and drawn condemnation from media freedom advocates.
But George Charamba, Information Ministry permanent secretary and spokesman for President Mugabe, says there will be no changes at the Broadcasting Authority.
Minister of State Jameson Timba, attached to Mr. Tsvangirai’s office, told VOA reporter Blessing Zulu that media reform will be a top priority in the coming year.
Media advocate Rashweat Mukundu, former director of the Media Institute of Southern Africa in Zimbabwe, says the unity government has failed dismally at media liberalization.
Media studies lecturer Brilliant Mhlanga of the University of Westminster in London said he has no problem with Zimpapers getting a television license, but he takes exception with the way the the Broadcasting Authority is constituted.
Critics in particular say the appointment of former Media and Information Commission Chairman Tafataona Mahoso as chairman of the Broadcast Authority signaled that reform was not on the agenda given his prior record of quashing independent media.