- Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Zimbabwe, has acknowledged initiatives made by Attorney General's office to develop information communication technology (ICT) Bill through circulation of a questionnaire which is primarily aimed at identifying deficits in ICT related legislation in the southern African state.
According to a statement released by MISA-Zimbabwe today, Posts and Telecommunications Act, Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) are identified as some of laws that will be taken into consideration towards development of a national ICT Bill.
Report shows that questionnaire therefore seeks to establish whether three laws in question have overlapping functions and whether it is possible to consolidate them into one Act.
"It is MISA-Zimbabwe's strong submission that in their present state, laws in question, and BSA and AIPPA in particular, do not even meet benchmarks for enactment of a progressive and democratic national ICT legislation, more so as it relates to establishment of an independent converged broadcasting, ICT, cellular and telecommunications regulatory authority," report says.
It says long term viability of broadcasting, telecommunications and ICT sectors lies in securing independence of their regulatory frameworks.
It says argument for independence of regulators in field of telecoms, broadcasting and technological convergence is guided by several regional and continental covenants such as African Charter on Broadcasting (ACB), African Union (AU) Declaration on Principles of Freedom of Expression in Africa and SADC Protocol on Culture, Information and Sport.
Statement further shows that Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) is hailed as a model independent regulator on continent, adding that it is MISA-Zimbabwe's argument that manner in which Zimbabwean regulators, namely Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) under BSA, Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe and Media and Information Commission under AIPPA, are constituted makes them susceptible to direct political interference.
"AIPPA through MIC imposes statutory regulation in breach of Banjul Declaration on Principles of Freedom of Expression in Africa while BAZ is hostage to whims and dictates of Executive in violation of African Charter on Broadcasting," it says.
It further shows that these bodies need to be replaced by a truly independent communications regulator that will oversee these sectors.
It adds that this new regulator's independence must be guaranteed by law and must have financial, structural and functional independence in order to regulate sector effectively and impartially for development of ICT sector to be guaranteed.
"It is MISA-Zimbabwe's submission that regulation should be undertaken for purposes of promoting freedom of speech and access to information. Extent to which a country is said to be democratic is extent to which it is seen to actively promote free expression and communication between people and their leaders through such institutions as media," it says.
It adds, "We posit that one of ways of promoting free expression and communication is through creation of an enabling environment for media freedom through, among other considerations, establishing a truly independent regulator to regulate country's communications sector in public interest, free of any political, commercial or individual self interest."
It is therefore MISA-Zimbabwe's humble submission that Attorney General Office and government in general in its quest to come up with a national ICT Bill should be guided by following principles that govern operations of independent regulatory bodies, report says.
It further says that there should be clear separation of powers, with government being responsible for policy development and an independent body being responsible for implementation of policies and regulating sector, whilst privately owned media concentrates on service provision.
Report shows that regulation should be done in public interest, with aim of creating and maintaining order in sector, establishing fair competition and quality service, promoting free speech and access to information as well as consumer protection.
"Providing a distinct legal mandate of regulator's duties and responsibilities, free of ministerial, commercial or private control, involving every one, that is executive, legislature, civic society, business and general public, in appointment process of regulator's board," it concludes.
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