The government says the ongoing public hearings for the allocation of six free-to-air commercial television licences demonstrate President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s commitment to having more services in line with Government’s desire to liberalise the media, Permanent Secretary for Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Nick Mangwana said yesterday.

Using his Twitter handle, Mangwana said: “The @baz_zw (Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe) is holding virtual public inquiries where television licence applicants are being quizzed on their applications. This is a serious matter of public interest because whilst it may be 40 years later, it’s great that we have a President who is committed to sorting it.”

Successful applicants for the six-free-to-air national commercial television licences will be licensed to operate by the end of next month.

He said the government has embarked on media reforms that have also seen repealing of laws such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) that were viewed as impediments to the operations of media organisations and journalists.

However, political analyst Dr Pedzisai Ruhanya says the purported freeing of the media space is nothing to write home about, as would only serve to multiply the regime, mouthpieces.

He describes the move as deceptive.

“DECEPTION is at the core of this process. The majority of these companies belong to the system and its surrogates and they will get the licenses,” he says.

Ruhanya adds that:

“It would be interesting to see who will get the licenses for broadcast television in Zimbabwe under the state-controlled BAZ process.

“Essentially the ZANU PF will license itself and pretend liberalisation of broadcast television @nickmangwana. The system is very predictable.”

The government says Freedom of Information Act has replaced AIPPA, and it gives effect to Section 62 of the Constitution, which provides for the right to access to information as enshrined in the Declaration of Rights, as part of the Second Republic’s efforts to fulfil the reform agenda aimed at seeing the country pursuing a new trajectory in its domestic and foreign policies.

The Act sets out the procedure of access to information held by public institutions or information held by any person, which is necessary for exercise or protection of a right.

However, over the years, the government has been using the law to choke the media space.

The BAZ inquiries are being conducted online to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

The 14 applicants are Acacia Media, AB Communications (Pvt) Ltd t/a Flex TV, Blackbury Enterprises (Pvt) Ltd t/a Blackbury TV, Conduit Investments (Pvt) Ltd t/a Conduit TV Station, Continental Television (Pvt) Ltd, Channel Dzimbahwe (Pvt) Ltd t/a Channel D, Fairtalk Communications (Pvt) Ltd t/a Keyona TV, and Heart & Soul Broadcasting Services (Pvt) Ltd t/a HStv.

The others include, Jester Media Services (Pvt) Ltd t/a 3KTV, Just in Time TV (Pvt) Ltd t/a JIT TV, Medianet Productions (Pvt) Ltd t/a Sunrise TV, Meditation Investments (Pvt) Ltd t/a Zim news Channel, Rusununguko Media (Pvt) Ltd t/a NRTV and Zimpapers (1980) Limited t/a ZTN.

So far eight applicants have been interviewed: Acacia Media, AB Communications, Blackbury Enterprises, Conduit Investments, Continental Television, Channel Dzimbahwe, Fairtalk Communications and Heart & Soul Broadcasting Services.

-Herald/ Zwnews