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Lawmaker Says Media Diversity Promotes Free, Fair Polls

Despite the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe’s recent issuing of two national commercial radio licenses, a senior Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader says the country’s media industry - particularly the broadcasting sector - needs to be diversified to ensure balanced news coverage during elections.

Speaking in Kwekwe during a recent discussion on broadcast media diversity, ethics and elections, organized by the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe, Mbizo Member of Parliament and MDC-Tsvangirai national executive member, Settlement Chikwinya, said Zimbabwe’s broadcast media is inhibited.

Chikwinya blamed several factors, including too much regulation and laws that limit or block foreign investment in the sector.
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Mr. Chikwinya, chairperson of the parliament’s portfolio committee on media, information and communication technology, said right now the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe and the Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe both regulate the broadcasting and telecommunications sector.

He wants to see them streamlined into one body adding that because broadcasting is a capital intensive industry, the law capping foreign ownership in broadcasting firms at 10% should be revised.

Chikwinya critcized ZANU PF party and its inability to see between national and partisan interests, pushing for parliament to have powers to select the governing broadcasting boards

While he welcomed the media ministry’s proposal to establish information centres in rural areas and community radio stations, he expressed concern that these could easily be turned into places for the dissemination of partisan propaganda - leaning on the new constitution to bring diversity in the media sector

On the question of balnaced coverage of state media, Chikwinya cited 2008, when ZTV gave Zanu PF more airtime than other parties, saying the media has to move away from such action in the next elections.

During the discussion, some participants said there is need for media diversity, but that it is also paramount that journalists be ethical in their work. They appealed for journalists to be paid adequately to help them resist bribes.