The Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) was initially created through section 68 (1) of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) (which became law in January 2008) and later reaffirmed through Constitutional Amendment Number 19 of February 2009 which elevated it to a Constitutional Commission.
Constitutional Amendment 20 of 2013 further reaffirmed the existence of the Commission with further powers over regulation and development of the media in Zimbabwe. The first Board of Commissioners under the Constitutional Amendment 19 took office in February 2010 through the gazetting of names of members by His Excellency President R.G. Mugabe during the tenure of Government of National Unity (GNU). The tenure of the Board of Commissioners is five years.
The Board consists of nine members. Both the chairperson and the other eight members are appointed by the President in consultation with the Standing rules and Orders Committee of Parliament.
Commissioners are chosen on the basis of their integrity and their competence in administration and their knowledge and understanding of the human rights issues as well as best practices in media matters.
When appointing the Board of Commissioners, the President takes into consideration gender and regional representation issues as provided by the Constitution.
The Constitution provides for the broad mandate of the Commission as follows:
(a) to uphold, promote and develop freedom of the media;
(b) to promote and enforce good practices and ethics in the media;
(c) to monitor broadcasting in the public interest and, in particular, to ensure fairness and diversity of views broadly representing Zimbabwean society;
(d) to encourage the formulation of codes of conduct for persons employed in the media and, where no such code exists, to formulate and enforce one;
(e) to receive and consider complaints from the public and, where appropriate, to take appropriate action against journalists and other persons employed in the media or broadcasting who are found to have breached any law or any code of conduct applicable to them;
(f) to ensure that the people of Zimbabwe have fair and wide access to information;
(g) to encourage the use and development of all the officially recognised languages of Zimbabwe;
(h) to encourage the adoption of new technology in the media and in the dissemination of information;
(i) to promote fair competition and diversity in the media; and
(j) to conduct research into issues relating to freedom of the press and of expression, and in that regard to promote reforms in the law.
Powers and Functions of the Commission according to the Act
Constitution Amendment 20 provides for the enactment of legal instruments to deal with access to information, regulation of the media and discipline of journalists. The current legal instrument dealing with the above is the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act which elaborates the functions of the Commission as follows:
To uphold the freedom of the press; and
To promote and enforce good practice and ethics in the press, print and electronic media, and broadcasting; and
To ensure that the people of Zimbabwe have equitable and wide access to information; and
To ensure the equitable and development of all indigenous languages spoken in Zimbabwe; and
To comment on the implications of proposed legislation or programmes of public bodies on access to information and protection of privacy; and
To comment on the implications of automated systems for collection, storage, analysis or transfer of information or for access to information or protection of privacy; and
To inform the public about this Act; and
To engage in or commission research into anything affecting the achievement of the purposes of this Act; and
To conduct investigations in terms of Part IX to endure compliance with the provisions of this Act; and
To receive, evaluate for accreditation and consider applications for the accreditation of journalists; and
To review the decisions of public bodies in terms of Part X; and
To bring to the attention of the head of a public body any failure to meet the prescribed standards for fulfilling the duty to assist applicants; and
To authorize a public body, at the request of its head, to disregard requests that would unreasonably interfere with the operations of the public body; and
To monitor the mass and raise awareness of the mass media; and
To register mass media in Zimbabwe; and
To investigate complaints against any journalist or mass media service in terms of Part VIIA; and
To make regulations in terms of section 91.
Media Breaches and Complaints Procedures
Section 42A of the Act provides for the establishment of a statutory Media Council under the supervision of the Commission. The Media Council consists of 13 members. Twelve of the members are seconded by various media stakeholders who include the following:
An association of Accredited Journalists;
Association of Publishers;
Association of advertisers;
Association of Mass Media Trainers;
Association of Churches;
Association of business people;
Trade Union or Federation of Trade Unions;
Association of Youths;
Legal Practitioners; and
Faculties of Law in tertiary education.
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