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amendments spark media outrage
Marwizi, The Standard (Zimbabwe)
December 23, 2007
Zanu PF and the MDC ignored the input of journalists as they rushed
through Parliament amendments to the Access
to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), it emerged
The amendments were passed
in line with agreements reached at the talks brokered by South Africa.
the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, said the
bills had to be fast-tracked, together with three others, the Public
Order ad Security Act, Broadcasting
Services Act and the Electoral
Laws Amendment Act in order to pave the way for harmonised polls
The Zanu PF and MDC negotiating
teams agreed to amend the laws in an effort to ensure a level playing
field in the election. These laws have been considered draconian
and out of synchronisation with SADC norms and guidelines on the
conduct of democratic elections.
But as the two
parties rushed the bills through Parliament on Tuesday night, the
for Human Rights noted: "They missed an opportunity to
involve all stakeholders and ensure that substantive, far-reaching
and acceptable amendments were made to such insidious legislation
which could have had a substantive effect in ensuring a satisfactory
electoral environment in the run-up to the 2008 polls and beyond."
In the case of AIPPA,
both parties failed to get an input from the media professionals
directly affected by the bill.
This left Zimbabwean
journalists, who should have been the first to celebrate amendments
to AIPPA, largely disappointed.
Union of Journalists which represents 98% of practising journalists
was not given a chance to make an input into the bill.
ZUJ president Matthew
Takaona said the union was "extremely disturbed" by the
fact that none of the negotiators saw it fit to consult stakeholders
in order to come up with amendments "owned rather than imposed
on the media industry".
There was also
no attempt to consult the Zimbabwe National Editors' Forum, the
Media Alliance of Zimbabwe, Misa
Zimbabwe and other media-related organisations that have lobbied
for the amendments to AIPPA.
This piece of legislation
has been used by the government to shut down private newspapers.
Notable among them was
The Daily News and its sister paper The Daily News on Sunday. The
Media and Information Commission (MIC) also restricted the operations
of journalists by denying journalists licences.
Determined to get rid
of the MIC which has been described as "the media hangman",
journalists and other stakeholders have worked hard for the past
three years to establish a voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe.
They hoped their own organisation would replace the statutory MIC,
once AIPPA was amended.
The MCZ has a code of
conduct which governs the operations of journalists. The code was
endorsed by all journalists and other stakeholders this year.
But both Zanu PF and
MDC negotiators ignored the pressing need for a voluntary organisation
and proposed the establishment of another statutory body, the Zimbabwe
Media Commission, which would replace the Tafataona Mahoso-led MIC.
Misa Zimbabwe, which
made an analysis of the bill, said nothing would change as the MIC
would simply be renamed the ZMC. It would remain with its "vicious
the proposed amendments as amounting to applying lipstick on a frog,"
said Loughty Dube, the chairperson of Misa Zimbabwe.
He said the commission
would still be tasked with functions of media regulation, registration
of mass media and accrediting journalists. Members of this body
would be appointed by the President, though drawn from a list prepared
by the Parliamentary Committee on Standing Orders.
Iden Wetherell, the chairperson
of Zinef, said the government had to do more to show that it was
genuinely concerned with addressing the concerns of journalists.
of Aippa, the Zimbabwe National Editors Forum calls upon government
to demonstrate its sincerity by appointing credible representatives
of journalists to the Zimbabwe Media Commission and readmitting
to the country without condition Zimbabwean journalists currently
living in exile and all foreign correspondents including those expelled
from Zimbabwe since 2000, many on spurious grounds," Wetherell
The Zimbabwe Lawyers
for Human Rights said fast-tracking bills showed a worrying and
flagrant lack of respect for processes allowing public input and
scrutiny of legislation which affects the Zimbabwean public.
"This, in turn,
greatly undermines the democratic space, and the promotion and protection
of human rights in the country," said the organisation.
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