HARARE - State-controlled Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings (ZBH) — managers of ZTV — has defended its censorship of live parliamentary debates, arguing it was their editorial policy, targeted at making the channel family friendly.
This comes after opposition political parties yesterday slammed the national broadcaster for censoring Parliament debates whenever MPs question matters that portray Zanu PF and the government in bad light.
It has almost become a trend that the broadcaster abruptly crosses over to commentators who will be on stand-by or flight advertisements during live broadcasts of the parliamentary debates, with the latest being Wednesday’s which touched on the emotive Gukurahundi issue.
During the debate, MDC vice president Thokozani Khupe asked what government was doing to ensure that children born during the Gukurahundi era get birth certificates, before it was taken off air.
ZBH News and Current Affairs acting head Tazzen Mandizvidza told the Daily News that the practice was standard procedure.
Further defending the position, he said the national broadcaster exercises editorial control over all its productions.
“We do not flight proceedings in Parliament whenever debate in the house degenerates into chaos, name-calling, use of ‘bad or foul’ language, shouting of obscenities and threats,” he said.
“This is against our editorial policy, which prohibits the national broadcaster from showing and promoting violence in all its forms as well as the use of such foul language,” Mandizvidza said.
He said their operations are governed by the broadcaster’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that they follow during live and pre-recorded programmes.
“We wish to make it clear to you that the national broadcaster does not censor debate in Parliament ‘whenever a question which puts Zanu PF and government in bad light’ is asked,” Mandizvidza said, adding that whenever foul language is used, their SOPs stipulate that they should avoid putting such things on air.
He further said the live programmes are also viewed by children, who must not be exposed to foul language or “unbecoming behaviour”.
“We therefore want to make it clear that this has nothing to do with political parties, or the government in power, but an elaborate exercise of our live broadcast SOPs and editorial policy which are meant to protect the viewers, especially the children.”
Mandizvidza said the commentary that happens during live programmes is part of their template or programme format.
“That is our format in live programmes coverage — be it sports, official opening of Parliament, burial of a hero or any other.
“If you look closely you will realise that commentary is a normal format for covering live events. It is done to allow for contextualisation, explanation of what will be taking place and so forth.
“The live parliamentary coverage is no exception. It is up to the producer of the live production to choose when to bring in commentary and usually we take advantage of moments when there is a lax in activities.
“So the presenters and analysts are not there for any form of censorship, but to put the coverage into context,” he said.