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The legal implications of accreditation or non-accreditation of journalists under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act
prepared by Irene Petras on behalf of MISA-Zimbabwe Chapter
October 19, 2002

© reserved - Irene Petras October 2002

Who is entitled to be accredited?
In order for a journalist to be accredited he must be:

  1. a citizen of Zimbabwe; or
  2. a permanent resident in terms of the Immigration Act (meaning he must hold a valid permanent resident permit issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs and adhere to the conditions specified in the permit); or
  3. any other person who is neither a citizen nor a permanent resident, although such person is only entitled to be accredited for a limited period of time. The period is not stipulated in the Act at present, but section 19 of the Amendment Bill seeks to limit the period to a maximum of 30 days.

The journalist must then also satisfy the Commission that:

  1. he has complied with the prescribed formalities; and
  2. that he possesses the prescribed qualifications

before he is accredited and issued with a press card.

A journalist can apply for accreditation either individually or means of his employment by a mass media service (defined in terms of the Act) or a news agency (a news agency remains undefined).

Apart from these stipulations, the Act is silent on how the Commission shall consider the application for accreditation. The use of the word ‘may’ in section 79(5) indicates that the Commission has discretion as to whether to accredit a journalist. However, one could, if refused accreditation, argue that reference be made to section 69(1), which sets out the only reasons why a mass media service cannot be registered. These are all technical irregularities related to the application itself, and it could be argued that it is unfair to discriminate between limitations on registering a media house and those used to accredit its journalists. What grounds are used for one should be used for the other.

Of great concern in the Amendment Bill is the clause1 seeking to introduce a new section dealing with appeals to the Administrative Court, which includes the provision that even if the court finds that the journalist should not have been denied accreditation by the Commission the journalist will not be automatically accredited, but rather the application will once again be placed before the Commission for re-determination – giving them a second bite at the cherry.

1Section 25 of the Amendment Bill, which seeks to introduce a new section 90A in the principal Act entitled "Appeals to Administrative Court"

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