via ‘Biased’ ZBC taken to court over TV, radio licences | SW Radio Africa by Mthulisi Mathuthu November 27, 2013
A senior MDC-T official, Jessie Majome, has approached the Constitutional Court seeking the endorsement of her decision not to pay for radio and television licences to the ‘biased’ Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings (ZBC). Majome, who is MP for Harare West, is refusing to pay for licences because ZBC is ‘openly biased towards ZANU PF’ and is also ‘anti-MDC’.
In July ZBC inspectors, accompanied by the police, visited Majome’s home and warned her that she would be prosecuted for not paying for her licences. But Majome has remained defiant since and has also sought the court’s intervention in the matter.
A Daily News report on Wednesday said Majome wants the court to declare that ‘noncompliance with sections of the Broadcasting Services Act does not constitute a criminal offence.’ In her court papers Majome argues that those particular sections are ‘unconstitutional’ and that the state broadcaster is infringing her right of ‘freedom of association by virtue of partisan programming’.
The Harare West legislator argues that ZBC ‘compels’ her to ‘associate with ZANU PF by forcing her to know and hear at least something about ZANU PF’ each time she tunes to radio and TV. Majome says it is her right not to associate with a party she is ‘personally and officially opposed to’.
On Wednesday Majome told SW Radio Africa that she was waiting for the court to allocate a date for the hearing of the matter. She said her lawyers were still preparing the heads of argument.
Majome remained defiant saying paying licences to ZBC was akin to funding ZANU PF’s propaganda campaign. She said ZANU PF should fundraise like other parties and not expect the public to pay subscriptions to the party under the guise of paying for licences. She also called for plurality in the broadcasting sector saying ZBC was a ‘complete disaster’.
Her comments come at a time when the government is being called upon to open up the airwaves to multiple players.
The Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) is responsible for licencing new players, but their board was handpicked by the then former information minister, Webster Shamu, and is comprised of ZANU PF allies and retired army generals.
Although BAZ recently called for applications for new radio licences media players are skeptical. Outgoing executive director of the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe, Takura Zhangazha, recently told SW Radio Africa that while there was a ‘definite’ intention to open up the airwaves the gesture was not for the furtherance of human rights and democracy.
The day before the BAZ call for radio applications Supa Mandiwanzira, the Deputy Minister of Information, told the Senate that government was in the process of licensing new radio stations ‘to get rid of pirate radio stations that have been spawning anti-Zimbabwe sentiments.
The Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe expressed its concern over the, ‘authorities contradictory action claiming to be interested in opening up the broadcasting sector, while the covert motive appears to the need to get rid of the so-called pirate radio stations.’