The Government will not allow the broadcasting media to transmit subversive information that incites violence or destablise the country, Information, Media and Broadcasting Services permanent secretary, Mr George Charamba, has said.
Mr Charamba told our Harare Bureau yesterday that the law was clear on the mandate of players in the broadcasting sector and what was expected of them.
Last week, the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe issued a similar reminder to players in the telecoms industry following a proliferation of subversive messages by agents of regime change using social media platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Mr Charamba’s remarks followed a letter written by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe on July 4, 2016, reminding all broadcasters that they should not broadcast programmes that incite and glamourise violence in view of disturbances that took place in some parts of the country last week.
Some social misfits agitating for upheavals condemned BAZ, saying its correspondence to broadcasters amounted to a clampdown on the media.
In this regard, Mr Charamba said there was nothing amiss in BAZ’s communication as it was within the confines of the law.
“Following the riotous situation that was developing in the country, the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe reminded all licensees of their obligation as broadcasters not to do anything that advances the cause of violent behaviour in the country,” said Mr Charamba.
“For that communication, which by the way was done in confidence with licensees, BAZ has come under fire from persons who think that the reminder by BAZ amounts to abridgement of press freedom. In the same vein and spirit, Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe that regulates the telecommunication industry, which is BAZ’s equivalent, issued similar reminder to players in the telecoms industry.
“As Secretary for Information, Media and Broadcasting Services, I want to make it abundantly clear that BAZ acted within the four corners of the law, and before ignorant people spout out and display their ignorance, they must familiarise themselves) with the laws of the country, in this case, the Broadcasting Services Act and the regulations developed there from.
“More importantly, they must know that the whole world over, the broadcasting media is regulated for very obvious reasons, that its impact on society is immediate as it is dramatic. It is such regulations (that) exist in people who invented both radio and television, not these latter day Jeremiahs whose only competence is in listening and watching.”
Mr Charamba continued: “Let it be very clear to all and sundry, that the broadcast platform in this country, will never be used to destroy this country. The purpose of those platforms is to educate, inform and entertain. Nowhere do you find a clause in the Act or in the constitution, which says we have set up broadcasting infrastructure to incite or promote riotous situations. On that matter we are very clear.
“As I speak, I am using $187 million of the tax payer, to modernise the broadcasting sector. I am not under instruction to spend so much money to create an instrument for destroying this society.”
BAZ chief executive officer Mr Obert Muganyura said broadcasters who violated the law risk serious penalties as espoused by the law.
“Those that choose to violate the law may face monetary penalties or suspension of their licences,” he said. “In worst case scenarios, they risk cancellation of their licences.”
In the letter addressed to the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, AB Communications, Zimpapers t/a as Star FM and Diamond FM, and Ray of Hope t/a Ya FM on July 4, 2016, Mr Muganyura said: “In view of recent disturbances taking place in some parts of the country, and the broadcaster’s general mandate to inform citizens on current affairs, the authority hereby remind yourselves of provisions of the Broadcasting Services Act with its regulations regarding the programming content requirements for such times and events.
“Please take note in your portrayal or reportage of news and current affairs programming of Section 26 of the Broadcasting Services Act (Licensing and Content) Regulations of 2004, which among the provisions requires that you do not broadcast programmes that incite, encourage or glamourise violence or brutality. We also advise that you be technically equipped to handle the programmes and avoid broadcasting obscene and undesirable comments from participants, callers and audiences in accordance with 18(a).”
The Broadcasting Services (Licensing and Content) Regulations 2004, which largely informed Mr Muganyura in his correspondence to broadcasters says: “Every free-to-air licensee shall (b) have responsibility to ensure that generally programmes broadcast do not:
(i) incite, encourage or glamourise violence or brutality,
(ii) contain gratuitous violence in any form that is, violence which does not play a leading role in developing the plot or theme of the material as a whole.
(iii) epitomise violence as the only legitimate ingredient and main theme without clearly showing the negative consequences of violence to its victims and perpetrators,
(iv) show methods or devices of inflicting injury which are capable of easy imitation,
(v) portray conduct likely to encourage anti-social behaviour, abuse of alcohol or drugs,
(vi) contain frightening and excessive special effects featuring violence not relevant to the story line,
(vii) contain a combination of violence and sexual conduct meant to titillate the viewers or listeners.”
In South, the South African Broadcasting Corporation had since stopped broadcasting protests and footage showing destruction of property, urging other broadcasters to do the same.
The SABC said it condemned the burning of public institutions and has taken a decision that it will not show footage of people burning schools or other facilities in any of its news bulletins with immediate effect. By Tendai Mugabe Source-chronicle