Some punches pulled by MISA on the pro­posed law

Observer on Saturday - - News - By Ackel Zwane

hile ex­cite­ment is high on the prospects of re­lease of li­cences for ra­dio sta­tions, some stake­hold­ers are call­ing for the speedy pass­ing of the Broad­cast­ing Bill to com­ple­ment the op­er­a­tions of broad­cast­ers.

Com­mu­nity Ra­dio Sec­tor spokesper­son Am­brose Zwane of Lubombo Com­mu­nity Ra­dio fame says this would al­low op­er­a­tors to chal­lenge gov­ern­ment in the event of a hap­haz­ard clo­sure of a sta­tion.

He says this is the im­me­di­ate task of the new Cab­i­net es­pe­cially the min­istry of in­for­ma­tion com­mu­ni­ca­tion and tech­nol­ogy headed by Princess Sikhany­iso. Cab­i­net was sworn in on Tues­day.

WS­take­hold­ers

He says the sec­tor is cur­rently very ex­cited at prospects that Swazi­land Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion SCCOM would be open­ing ap­pli­ca­tions next month as it an­nounced at a me­dia work­shop in Au­gust. Gov­ern­ment gazetted the Swazi­land Broad­cast­ing Bill on Fe­bru­ary 15, 2013 to­gether with the Swazi­land Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion Bill and ever since it has not seen the light of day, that is, be­ing made into law de­spite in­put from all stake­hold­ers.

Zwane says the Bill is very rich and di­verse in is­sues of broad­cast­ing and there­fore the is­suance of li­cence would be ideal if cou­pled with a piece of leg­is­la­tion that is cur­rent with the in­is­ter of in­for­ma­tion, com­mu­ni­ca­tion and tech­nol­ogy, Win­nie Ma­gag­ula, tabled the Swazi­land Broad­cast­ing Bill 2013 and the Swazi­land Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion Bill 2013 in the Se­nate on Wed­nes­day March 6, 2016.

While wel­com­ing the tabling of the Bill the Swazi­land chap­ter of the Me­dia In­sti­tute of South­ern Africa (MISASwazi­land) wanted to know how the broad­caster will strengthen the “spir­i­tual and mo­ral fi­bre” of the na­tion, and called for a pre­cise def­i­ni­tion of “spir­i­tual and mo­ral fi­bre” be­cause the Bill is silent in its mean­ing.

MISA said it was con­cerned that the “spir­i­tual and mo­ral fi­bre” ob­jec­tive might in re­al­ity clash with the “free­dom of ex­pres­sion through broad­cast­ing” ob­jec­tive. In other words, MISA is con­cerned that “spir­i­tual and mo­ral fi­bre” may be used to sup­press le­git­i­mate ques­tion­ing and crit­i­cism of the na­tion’s rich and pow­er­ful.

MISA called for ei­ther the re­moval of the “spir­i­tual and mo­ral fi­bre” ob­jec­tive, or, al­ter­na­tively, a pre­cise def­i­ni­tion that runs in spirit with uni­ver­sal no­tions of free­dom of ex­pres­sion, namely, that all cit­i­zens are free to speak their mind on all forms of broad­cast­ing.

Fur­ther, MISA re­quired clar­i­fi­ca­tion in re­gard to Part III, 27 (1)(a) of the Broad­cast­ing Bill, un­der “Pro­gram­ming, Sched­ul­ing and Ad­ver­tis­ing”. The Bill here stip­u­lates any or­gan­i­sa­tion that holds a broad­cast­ing li­cence must broad­cast “noth­ing… that shall of­fend against good taste, moral­ity or de­cency

Mtimes. “Per­son­ally if SCCOM uses broad­cast­ing reg­u­la­tions for its li­cences it does not give li­censees lee­way to ar­gue ef­fec­tively in a court of law with­out a law.”

Li­cence

How­ever he is ex­cited that there is even a sem­blance of li­cenc­ing just around the cor­ner, in De­cem­ber, and as a com­mu­nity ra­dio sec­tor they are now or­gan­is­ing them­selves to put upto-date equip­ment to meet the chal­lenge in all re­gions. The tar­get is that by next year they would be on air for the Univer­sity of Eswa­tini com­mu­nity ra­dio. He laments that cur­rently stu­dents grad­u­ate with zero prac­ti­cal skills in broad­cast­ing and this be­comes a bur­den of the em­ployer to take through the paces of broad­cast­ing new en­trants in the in­dus­try who other­wise boast a qual­i­fi­ca­tion in jour­nal­ism and mass com­mu­ni­ca­tion with sub­jects in broad­cast­ing. Sec­tion 10 of the Bill stip­u­lates that an ap­pli­cant shall not be el­i­gi­ble for a com­mu­nity broad­cast­ing li­cence if the ap­pli­cant is profit mak­ing; is wholly for­eign owned; has been con­victed of an of­fence in­volv­ing dis­hon­esty; is a po­lit­i­cal party or en­tity or holds of­fice in that en­tity; or is an op­er­a­tor, share­holder, em­ployee or holds an in­ter­est in any me­dia out­let. A news­pa­per, pri­vate ra­dio or tele­vi­sion sta­tion or is likely to en­cour­age or in­cite crime or lead to dis­or­der, or be of­fen­sive to pub­lic feel­ing, re­pug­nant, or con­ducted in bad faith”.

MISA called on the min­is­ter to de­fine: “good taste”; “moral­ity”; “de­cency”; “likely to in­cite crime or lead to dis­or­der”; of­fen­sive to pub­lic feel­ing”; “re­pug­nant”; and “con­ducted in bad faith” say­ing th­ese are loaded words and terms with var­i­ous mean­ings. They could be used in the name of me­dia free­dom just as much as they might be de­ployed in the name of re­pres­sion and cen­sor­ship. In the name of le­gal ac­count­abil­ity, there­fore, MISA called on the gov­ern­ment to de­fine th­ese words and terms in a man­ner con­sis­tent with Ar­ti­cles 23, 24, and 25 of the Swazi Con­sti­tu­tion.

The other Bill tabled in Swazi­land’s Se­nate on 6 March 2013 is the Swazi­land pro­pri­etor shall not own or con­trol any share or in­ter­est in a com­mu­nity ra­dio sta­tion. The law fur­ther stip­u­lates that a com­mu­nity broad­cast­ing ser­vice shall serve a com­mu­nity, and the mem­bers of that com­mu­nity that such com­mu­nity broad­cast­ing ser­vice is in­ter­ested to serve shall be given an op­por­tu­nity to run the ser­vice.

The pro­gram­ming pro­vided by a com­mu­nity broad­cast­ing ser­vice shall re­flect the needs of the peo­ple in the com­mu­nity, which shall in­clude cul­ture, lan­guage and de­mo­graphic needs. It shall pro­vide a dis­tinct broad­cast­ing ser­vice deal­ing specif­i­cally with is­sues which are not pre­dom­i­nantly dealt by the pub­lic broad­cast­ing ser­vice cov­er­ing the same area; shall serve to erad­i­cate in­for­ma­tion poverty through par­tic­i­pa­tory com­mu­ni­ca­tion in the com­mu­nity; be in­for­ma­tive, ed­u­ca­tional and en­ter­tain­ing; fo­cus on pro­vi­sion of pro­grammes that high­light grass­roots com­mu­nity is­sues in­clud­ing but not lim­ited to de­vel­op­ment and gen­eral ed­u­ca­tional, en­vi­ron­men­tal, lo­cal, in­ter­na­tional and cur­rent af­fairs and re­flect lo­cal cul­ture; pro­mote the de­vel­op­ment of a sense of com­mon pur­pose and im­prove the qual­ity of life; and help fos­ter cul­tural and com­mu­nal iden­tity. Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion Bill.

Fur­ther­more MISA said on ini­tial in­spec­tion the Cor­po­ra­tion Bill in­tends to es­tab­lish a body not dis­sim­i­lar to the South African Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion (SABC) – an or­gan­i­sa­tion to emerge from the ashes of Apartheid South Africa’s and racist state broad­caster.

The SABC, which is called a ‘pub­lic broad­caster’ and in many ways is a pub­lic broad­caster, is still grap­pling to­day (19 years af­ter the fall of Apartheid) with its role as a na­tional broad­caster that should dis­sem­i­nate in­for­ma­tion in the pub­lic in­ter­est. Rarely a week goes by with­out al­le­ga­tions of state cen­sor­ship or ‘shelv­ing’ of in­con­ve­nient sto­ries, or ac­cu­sa­tions of ‘orders from on high’ dis­al­low­ing crit­i­cism of cer­tain peo­ple or cer­tain or­gan­i­sa­tions. wane de­cries that the is­sue of li­cences for com­mu­nity broad­cast­ing ra­dio sta­tions comes at a time when there al­ready is donor fa­tigue and de­s­pair be­cause most in­ter­na­tional donors had long lost hope on Eswa­tini’s com­mit­ment to lib­er­alise waves for com­mu­nity broad­cast­ing in order to ad­vance the dic­tates of the very same Bill.

He says in the build up to the Bill they had al­ready se­cured fund­ing from var­i­ous sources to set up many ra­dio sta­tions across the coun­try serve the dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties but now ev­ery one of th­ese is strug­gling to get fund­ing for ba­sic equip­ment.

ZBill

This was more-so be­cause some in­ter­na­tional part­ners were in wait­ing for the re­lease of the li­cences but most had to leave as that was not forth­com­ing and now that have to start afresh to scout for fun­ders or re­new re­la­tions. “It is 22 years now I’ve been fight­ing for a li­cence and I have now be­come fa­mous the world over as be­ing re­silient, I have made his­tory for Eswa­tini be­cause now the coun­try is the world map as the only coun­try that has sup­pressed com­mu­nity ra­dio.” In 2013 gov­ern­ment an­nounced that “Cab­i­net has ap­proved the Swazi­land Broad­cast­ing Bill 2010 and the Swazi­land Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion Bill 2010. The Swazi­land Broad­cast­ing Bill 2010 seeks to har­monise the whole broad­cast­ing in­dus­try. This is the leg­is­la­tion that will be used by the In­de­pen­dent Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Reg­u­la­tor once it is in place when reg­u­lat­ing the broad­cast­ing sec­tor.

The ob­jects of the Bill, among oth­ers, are to;

Pro­vide for the reg­u­la­tion of sound and tele­vi­sion ser­vices in Eswa­tini;

Pro­vide for max­i­mum avail­abil­ity of broad­cast­ing to the peo­ple through the three tier sys­tem of pub­lic, com­mer­cial and com­mu­nity broad­cast­ing ser­vices;

Pro­vide for broad­cast­ing to con­trib­ute to the so­cio-eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of so­ci­ety, na­tion build­ing, pro­vi­sion of ed­u­ca­tion and the strength­en­ing of the spir­i­tual and mo­ral fi­bre.

Safe­guard, en­rich and strengthen the cul­tural, po­lit­i­cal, so­cial and eco­nomic fab­ric of Eswa­tini.

Con­trib­ute to democ­racy, de­vel­op­ment of so­ci­ety, gen­der equal­ity, na­tion build­ing, and pro­vi­sion of ed­u­ca­tion;

En­cour­age the de­vel­op­ment of lo­cal pro­gram­ming con­tent;

En­sure fair com­pe­ti­tion in the broad­cast­ing sec­tor;

Pro­vide for pub­lic, com­mer­cial and com­mu­nity broad­cast­ing ser­vices.

The Swazi­land Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion Bill 2010 is mainly for the es­tab­lish­ment of the Swazi­land Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion which shall be a na­tional broad­caster for the King­dom of Eswa­tini by amal­ga­mat­ing the op­er­a­tions and re­sources of the two ex­ist­ing broad­cast­ers, Swazi Tele­vi­sion and the Swazi­land Broad­cast­ing and In­for­ma­tion Ser­vices.

The Bill seeks fur­ther to pro­vide for the li­cenc­ing of the Cor­po­ra­tion; pro­vide for the es­tab­lish­ment of a Board of Di­rec­tors to run the Cor­po­ra­tion. The two Bills will be sub­mit­ted to Par­lia­ment for ap­proval.

i) ii) iii) iv) v) vi) vii) viii)

MUZZLED: Journos protest dur­ing the World Press Free­dom day where rights of com­mu­ni­ties to in­for­ma­tion were at is­sue.

SWITCH ON: Am­brose Zwane of Com­mu­nity Ra­dio sec­tor ex­plain­ing his con­cept.

SCRIBES: Me­dia per­son­al­i­ties at a re­cent work­shop where ra­dio li­cenc­ing was dis­cussed.

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