Zim lags behind in information development

via Zim lags behind in information development November 25, 2013 by Veneranda Langa Newsday

MEDIA specialists have said Zimbabwe lags behind most of its regional counterparts in the development of information infrastructure.

Addressing journalists attending a media law and policy regulation workshop in Mutare last week, Zimbabwe Media Commission member Chris Mhike said access to information was key to economic growth and the only way leaders could be held accountable to the electorate.

“Access to information is a right which is good for the economy as no economy can thrive when there is no access to information,” said Mhike.

“We should also ensure there is infrastructure in place to facilitate access to information because the problem in Zimbabwe is that transmission of information is still below standard as not all citizens have access to information and infrastructure.”

Mhike said a lot of important documents were still not accessible in languages that people can understand, adding an example was the new charter which up to now was not available to citizens in all different languages.

He said laws like the Broadcasting Services Act needed amendment as it did not ensure appointment of its members was transparent. “The major weakness is that applications for licences are only on invitation by BAZ (Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe) and they can sit on their laurels for years without inviting submissions for applications. Other pieces of legislation like the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act need repeal or amendments because they purport to facilitate access to information yet they have the opposite effect. Instead of granting information it limits it and was used to shut down a number of media houses,” he said.

Media Institute of Southern Africa-Zimbabwe board representative Kumbirai Mafunda said in the past ten years, there has been little legislative reforms in the media industry. Media Alliance of Zimbabwe coordinator Patience Zirima said the broadcasting sector urgently required reforms.

“As we align the laws with the new constitution reform of the state media is going to be critical. Already we have seen some reforms in people being fired from ZBC, but the question is, are we going to get a public broadcaster that is significant?” Zirima asked.