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Zimbabwe Launches State Linked Media Council

The Zimbabwe Media Commission Thurday launched a statutory media council to deal with public complaints against media houses and journalists as prescribed by the dreaded Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA).

But its composition immediately raised eyebrows among media practitioners.

The 13-member council is chaired by veteran journalist Henry Muradzikwa and some of the councillors are Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation chief executive Happson Muchechetere, Zimbabwe Newspapers Group chief executive Justin Mutasa, the Worker editor Ben Madzimure and representatives of various interest groups.

Andy Moyse of the Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe described the media council launch as a circus.

"If it was supposed to maintain standards in the media, how can you possibly have the (chief executive officer) CEO of ZBC and the CEO of Zimpapers as members on the council judging other peoples' works as well as their work. Tthis makes it a complete laughing stock," said Moyse.

Pedzasi Ruhanya, a Phd candidate at Westminster University in London, told VOA the council won't be used to enhance professionalism.

Ruhanya said even the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) "is toothless as it has no mechanism to enforce journalism ethics".

But ZMC chairman Godfrey Majonga defended the council saying "the media council is expected to develop a workable code of conduct for journalists and mass media services".

Majonga said the council will also come up with penalties for punishing journalists and media houses.

Media Council chairman Muradzikwa said councillors are expected to deal with complaints in a fair and transperant manner.

The independent media is not represented in the media council though the ZMC said they were invited to be part of the body. Most of the privately-owned media practitioners are in the VMCZ.
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