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Government body declares new broadcasting regulations unconstitutional

(MISA/IFEX) - The legal committee of Zimbabwe's Parliament, a panel which checks
the legality of laws brought to the House, has declared the new regulations on broadcasting unconstitutional. The "Financial Gazette", an independent weekly newspaper, quoted "authoritative sources" as saying that the regulations that were gazetted using the presidential powers violated the country's constitution.

The three-member committee is headed by Eddison Zvobgo, legal affairs secretary of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party. Its other members are Welshman Ncube, member of parliament for Bulawayo North for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), and ZANU PF's Buhera South legislator, Kumbirai Kangai.

According to the "Financial Gazette", among several issues noted by the panel was that the regulations were structured in such a way so as to discriminate against independent private broadcasters who will have to compete with the state-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, until now, the sole broadcaster in the country.

This, the panel said, violated Section 23 of the Constitution which outlaws discrimination on the grounds of race or tribe, colour or creed and because of an individual's political opinions. The panel also adjudged as unconstitutional sweeping powers vested in the minister of information, who alone is empowered to issue broadcasting licences after weighing recommendations of a panel appointed by the ministry.

The legal committee apparently said the minister's powers contravened Section 18 of the Constitution, which guarantees citizens the right to seek legal redress for grievances.

The new broadcasting regulations came in the wake of the 22 September 2000 Supreme Court ruling, which nullified the state's broadcasting monopoly. Following the ruling, the government contended that no broadcaster would be allowed to operate until the government had established a regulatory authority to provide an operational framework for new broadcasters. The regulations were hastily enacted and passed into law through the terms of the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act. They have been widely rejected and condemned by media organisations in Zimbabwe as draconian and punitive.

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