Broadcasting Services Act
Fact Sheet Eight:
Powers granted to the Minister of Information and Publicity
The Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) (2001) gives the Minister of Information and Publicity
wide and discretionary powers to regulate (control) the broadcasting industry in the country.
These powers scare away potential investors in the sector and make it virtually impossible to
operate a private broadcasting radio or television. Further, these powers practically work to
censor the information that is circulating in the public realm by forcing broadcasters to
practice self-censorship lest their licences be revoked without notice. Some of these powers,
and their negative impact on the industry, are discussed below.
Unconstitutional powers:
In terms of the law, the Minister of Information determines in his/her discretion:
(1) the appointment, termination and alteration of the conditions of tenure of office of
members of the BAZ board (section 4).
(2) who obtains a licence.
(3) the terms and conditions attached to an issued licence (section 11).
(4) whether an issued licence should be amended (section 15), suspended or cancelled
(section 16).
(5) whether to close a broadcaster on the basis that in spite of the registered
shareholding, a broadcaster is to his/her mind being “controlled” by some other
person(s) or body; (section 20, as read with section 2(1).
(6) the content of programmes.
(7) when to take over broadcasting stations and broadcast at a time determined by
him/her (Section 39 and the Fifth Schedule (Part III)).
These powers are in direct violation of Section 20 (1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe in that
they unreasonably and adversely limit the individuals’ right to receive and impart ideas, views
and information through the media and without interference or hindrance.
The fact that power is centralised in one person means that he/she can censor the
information that is available to the public. Section 20(2) of the Constitution only grants the
government the right to interfere with individual’s right to free expression only if these rights
amount to a threat to public safety, health, morality, defence, or the economic interests of the
state. Anything that does not fall into any of these legitimate reasons for restriction is not
justifiable by law and amounts to a constitutional violation.
The use of one person as being overall in charge of the broadcasting regulatory authority,
party and the head of competing electronic and print mass media, with absolute and
unrestrained power is hardly justifiable in any democratic society. Political and not
professional considerations will no doubt influence decisions that relate to the industry. The
Minister’s powers reveal the government’s determination to control information available to
Zimbabweans by maintaining a monopoly of the airwaves which was declared illegal by the
Supreme Court of Zimbabwe in 2000.
It cannot be over-emphasised that the Minister’s powers are not limited to regulating the
“technical administration, technical operation or general efficiency of …wireless broadcasting


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