LEGISLATORS have called for self-regulation of the media industry similar to the way the Law Society of Zimbabwe regulates lawyers in order to deal with “bogus journalists” on social media whom they said were posting “falsehoods and harmful stories”.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
During debate on the Media Commission Bill last Thursday, several MPs opined that self-regulation by the media was the best option going forward.
Harare East MP Tendai Biti said: “This (media) is a profession, and the problem now is that in these days of multimedia platforms, we all think we are journalists — and there are so many of us bloggers on Facebook (varakashi) and so let us give the journalism profession the privilege of registration and self-regulation.”
He said there were too many trolls on social media that were giving a bad name to the profession.
“Let us allow for self-regulation. In the Law Society of Zimbabwe, there is a representative appointed by the Minister of Justice, there is a representative from the University of Zimbabwe, the academic community, but the predominant players should be journalists themselves. When you commit a misdemeanour, you should be tried and judged by your peers,” he said.
The MDC Alliance MP said journalists themselves should determine how to deal with issues like plagiarism or writing a story without sources or fabricating a story.
Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga (MDC PR) added: “It deals with the mischief of what we are having. If you do not create a framework for self-regulation, almost like you have done with the Law Society of Zimbabwe, that is when we have the sprouting of people who are pretending to be journalists.
“Even those who are journalists, because they know they can get away with anything, they do not have anybody who can hold them to account. I also speak not only as a journalist but as a feminist, there are types of abuses that we have had to suffer as women at the hands of this profession of ours. Without self-regulation, you are literally throwing us to the wolves.”
Makonde MP Kindness Paradza (Zanu PF) said stakeholders agreed that there should be co-regulation of the media.
“We must make it clear in the Bill that we must set up a co-regulation framework within the media industry. This is an industry which needs regulation and it must self-regulate. As stakeholders, we agreed that let us have a framework which we call co-regulation so that the government is involved, the stakeholders are involved and those in the media industry are also involved,” he said.
Paradza said the media industry had been abused by people who wrote essays and called themselves journalists.
“Right now, the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe has few takers because the State-controlled media are not part of it. As a profession, the media must be regulated in a co-regulation framework like the Law Society, the Medical Council and the Nurses Council.
He said the Zimbabwe Media Commission should impose penalties on journalists who breach the profession’s code of conduct.