The Movement for Democratic Change has promised to free up the Zimbabwean media when it takes power, writes Gugu Ziyaphapha.
The MDC is embroiled in an election standoff with the ruling Zanu-PF. It has been declared the winner in parliamentary elections, but there is still a dispute about the presidential poll.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â
Newly elected MDC Senator, David Coltart toldÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â Bulawayo news conference that the MDC will enact policies that enables both the public and private media to become critical and analytical institutions of the government of the day and opposition political parties.
Coltart said: ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œIf the MDC forms the next government, we will create enabling conditions for the independence of both the public and private media. Allowing the media to be in the hands of government or the ruling party is an unhealthy situation for democracy.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Coltart said in the post-Mugabe era there is a need for the private media to critically probe opposition parties and the government unlike the present situation where the private media is seen as a mouthpiece for the opposition and the state media is biased towards the ruling government.
He said the MDC government will amend the existing harsh media laws in order to create press freedom and encourage more players in the industry which is currently dominated by government.
The Senator said the MDC will not allow foreigners to control the media but will allow some certain percentage of foreign funding. He warned that checks and balances should be put in place to ensure that the new MDC government when it comes to office will not also abuse the state media for its partisan gains.
"The public media has been used as instruments of the governing party for the past four decades and that must now come to an end," he said. "We need to restructure public institutions such as the ZBC to ensure that it becomes a professional entity."
ColtartÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢sÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â comments come as senior sources from the state media say Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa told them that the ruling party believes the state media let President Mugabe down towards the recent controversial elections.
Impeccable sources say Chinamasa, a Mugabe loyalist told them at a recent meeting that the state editors should from now own brief him on all political stories there are covering.
Since the elections, Chinamasa has been speaking on behalf of Zanu PF and government, sidelining Information Minister Ndlovu and Nathan Shamuyarira the partyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s spokesman. Some Zanu PF insiders confirmed that Chinamasa is heading the ruling partyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s new media blitzkrieg aimed at winning the presidential runoff.
The media campaign falls under what is known as the Joint Operations Command(JOC) which includes all the senior service chiefs.
Also at the Bulawayo conference, two ZBC journalists were arrested for allegedly stealing a cellphone
owned by Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu on the eve of world
press freedom day,.
The phone was recovered fromÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â the car used by a TV news crew, Journalist Lee Mangena and Charles Kanogoiwa.
Ndlovu said: ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œAfter addressing the press conference I discovered that
one of my cellphones which was on the table was missing. I took my
other phone and called the missing phone and it started ringing. With
the help of the hotel staff we managed to trace the phone hidden inside
the spare wheel of the ZBC crew van which was packed outside.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
the time, the state broadcaster was also hosting a party for its
employees at the hotel where the incident happened and five police
officers were quickly dispatched to deal with the theft.
Ndlovu says since the phone has been recovered he is not going to press charges against the two.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œOne of the accused came to me pleading that he was being framed and he
has a young baby and wife and cannot afford to go to prison. I told him
that if he was innocent the law should take its course,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â he said.