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legal implications of accreditation or non-accreditation of journalists
under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act
Irene Petras on behalf of MISA-Zimbabwe Chapter
October 19, 2002
© reserved -
Irene Petras October 2002
implications of failing to accredit
implications of failing to accredit severely restrict – in fact
make it almost impossible – for a journalist to practise his profession
in this country.
It is important
to note that these rights cannot be exercised by an unaccredited
journalist in Zimbabwe. Journalists reporting and exercising
their profession from outside the country are not affected.
under section 78 of the Act
have been outlined previously. The most important ones that are
unable to be exercised are as follows. A journalist cannot enquire,
gather, receive and disseminate information, which effectively restricts
him from carrying out his work. He cannot visit public bodies to
carry out his duties as a journalist. This means he cannot investigate
any stories pertaining to public institutions. He cannot access
documents and materials as prescribed in the Act, although any other
individual is entitled to such information under the Act. He cannot
make audio or video recordings, take photographs or film. This directly
affects those in the radio, film and video business.
One can see
the implications of this by using a hypothetical example. Lloyd
Mudiwa, as an unaccredited Daily News journalist, cannot
access any information outlined in the Act. Lloyd Mudiwa, as an
ordinary Zimbabwean citizen, can approach a public institution and
obtain any information he desires unless it is protected in terms
of the Act.
The effect of
non-accreditation is therefore discriminatory against a section
of the public, being unaccredited journalists. It is submitted that
this infringes upon an individual’s right under the Constitution
to protection from discrimination. Section 23(1) of the Constitution
states that, "No law shall make any provision that is discriminatory
either of itself or in its effect" and "No person shall
be treated in a discriminatory manner by any person acting by virtue
of a written law or in the performance of the functions of any public
office or any public authority". A journalist would have to
show that as a result of his creed (being his set of principles
or opinions)1, and as a
professional exercising his right of freedom of expression to inform
the public, he is forced to seek accreditation and to subject himself
to the monitoring and restriction of his work, whereas any member
of the public seeking the same information for himself is allowed
to do so freely. Thus, he is being discriminated against. If he
is able to satisfy the court that as a result of such beliefs and
opinions he is being subjected to a restriction or a disability
to which other persons are not subjected, he could succeed in having
section 79 struck out as unconstitutional.
unaccredited journalist cannot work for a news agency operating
in Zimbabwe, whether or not the offices and operations are located
in Zimbabwe in respect of any of its local operations. Once again,
the journalist is being discriminated against as compared to an
accredited journalist working for the same news agency. Each could
write an identical story and yet the unaccredited journalist will
not be able to see his story published, or be paid for his efforts.
is being repealed and substituted by section 20 of the Amendment
Bill. Under this section a journalist who is not accredited is open
to criminal charges, including an imprisonment term of up to two
unaccredited journalist is not entitled to have his name on the
roll of journalists or be issued with a certificate of accreditation.
unaccredited journalist cannot practise as a journalist or be employed
as such by a mass media service. Apart from the effect on the journalist,
this also has serious implications on mass media services, as their
certificate of registration can be suspended, withdrawn or refused
if they are employing an unaccredited journalist. A mass media service
operating without a valid certificate opens its owners or majority
shareholders to the commission of a criminal offence in terms of
section 72 and payment of a fine or imprisonment for up to 2 years,
or both, as well as the forfeiture of its products, equipment or
apparatus to the State.
a journalist’s name is deleted from the roll, or whilst he is suspended,
he cannot practise directly or indirectly by himself or in partnership
or association or be employed in any capacity as a journalistic
professional except with the written consent of the Commission.
to be found in the Concise Oxford Dictionary
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