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Zimbabwe Media Advocates Push Back in Broadcast Liberalization Debate

Lawmaker and former deputy information minister Bright Matonga said a study with the Zimbabwe Media Commission found that there was no way to monitor broadcasters, but fellow legislator and media committee member Pishai Muchauraya said no such study was conducted

Zimbabwean advocates of media liberalization say they are continuing to lobby for open airwaves in the country despite a recent statement from a ZANU-PF member of parliament saying the country is not ready to issue new licenses.

Lawmaker and former deputy information minister Bright Matonga, said in a discussion held by the Media Institute of Southern Africa that the government would not open the airwaves as the means for monitoring were not in place. He said broadcasters would have to put in place their own monitoring equipment to meet requirements.

Matonga cited research he said was conducted with Zimbabwe Media Commission Chief Executive Tafataona Mahoso that found the government had no capacity to monitor and control independent broadcasters. He accused media houses of wanting to obtain broadcasting licenses because the country is on the road to elections.

But legislator Pishai Muchauraya, like Matonga a member of Parliament's committee on media, said the panel never came to such a conclusion, and that consequently Matonga could only be speaking in a personal capacity. He said there was no such research conducted by the parliamentary committee with the Media Commission.

Muchauraya said the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe and the Broadcasting Board of Zimbabwe have informed the committee that Zimbabwe has the capacity to issue 56 broadcasting licenses. But he said the political will to move forward and license independent radio and TV stations is simply not there.

Zimbabwe Media Commission officials say the body has been moving for some time to put in place the modalities to issue independent broadcasting licenses.

Zimbabwe Media Commission member Chris Mhike told VOA Studio 7 reporter Tatenda Gumbo that the airwaves must be opened under a principal of self-regulation. He added the government or any regulatory body needing to monitor or regulate broadcasters should adhere to international norms in terms of technology and content.