The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) said on Tuesday it was concerned that a new broadcasting bill in Zimbabwe would serve to further tighten government control over the airwaves.
John Barker, Regional Programme Coordinator for broadcasting at MISA's headquarters in Windhoek, Namibia, said Zimbabwe's new Broadcasting, Posts and Telecommunications Bill approved by a cabinet committee on legislation two weeks ago had been amended only to allow for private participation in sports and entertainment broadcasts.
"This bill reflects a more hardline attitude of the government," Barker said. The bill to be tabled in parliament in coming weeks is expected to be passed into law next month.
Last week, the 'Daily News' in Zimbabwe quoted an information ministry statement as saying the state broadcasting network existed "to defend our culture, sovereignty, independence, security and our foreign policy, like the so-called democratic countries".
Besides freedom of expression issues, Barker said the proposed bill also had human rights implications because it was "building into the legislation" the right for telecommunications employees to monitor private communications if deemed in the public interest or if a crime was suspected.
NGOs, he added had lobbied for the past year without success for an alternate bill. So far Zimbabwe had allowed the liberalisation of cellular telephone and internet services.
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