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Analysis of Amendments to AIPPA
Media Institute of Southern Africa - Zimbabwe Chapter (MISA-Zimbabwe)
May 30, 2003

As a result of an adverse report passed by the Parliamentary Legal Committee on some sections of the AIPPA amendment Bill, The Minister of Information and Publicity, Jonathan Mayo made some amendments to the Bill. The amendments are largely concessions the minister made as far as the Bill is concerned. The contentious and controversial elements of the Bill however remain the same. Below is the analysis of the amendments and MISA-Zimbabwe comments. MISA-Zimbabwe notes that these amendments carry some changes, the organization submitted to both parliamentarians and the Minister that they be looked into.

The AIPPA amendment Bill will be debated in Parliament on 10 June. Parliamentarians asked for more time to read the changes made to the original Bill before debating it. Opposition Members of Parliament, through the Chief Whip, Hon Innocent Gonese, however argued that the whole Bill be thrown out and that AIPPA be repealed. Ruling party, ZANU PF Chief Whip, Hon Jorum Gumbo was however of the view that AIPPA needs to the perfected rather than repealed.

Analysis of the Amendments to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act Bill

(1) Definition of a "mass medium"
The original amendment Bill defined "mass medium". We submitted to the Parliamentary Committee of Transport and Communication that there was no need for this definition to be included in the Act, as there was no reference anywhere within the Act to "a mass medium" or. To retain the definition would only add to the uncertainty and create further confusion. We therefore suggested to the Committee that the definition be removed in toto.

We are therefore pleased to note that the definition has now fallen away in the amendment to the amendment.

(2) Clause 7 of the original bill
This clause was dealing with the composition of the Media and Information Committee. The clause sought to give the Minister the power to select ALL the members who sit on the MIC by deleting the provision that sought to bring in at least three other members nominated by an association of journalists and an association of media houses. This provision has now been deleted from the Bill in its entirety.

In our submissions to the Parliamentary Committee on Transport and Communication, we had argued against the provision highlighting how the current scenario of the Media and Information Commission presently having all of its board members hand-picked by the Minister of Information and Publicity, would result in it being partisan and non-independent. It was our argument that the proposed scenario would deny the media profession the basic right to choose any representatives to sit on the body that will regulate their affairs. We compared the situation with what transpires in other countries in Southern Africa and found the following:

  • In South Africa an independent Press and Ombudsman and Appeal Panel that enforce journalistsí ethical standards regulate journalists.
  • In Malawi and Tanzania journalists established a system of self-regulation, which governs their own business and enforces their ethical standards. The regulatory body has a majority of board members democratically elected by the profession itself.

We also put it that other professional bodies such as architects, land surveyors, legal practitioners, quantity surveyors, veterinary surgeons, engineers, medical and dental practitioners, pharmacists, and estate agents, all have a majority of board members who are democratically elected by the profession itself. Government appointed members are always in the minority if any.

We are therefore pleased to note that the Minister, on the advise of the Parliamentary Legal Committee has seen and accepted our side of the story resulting in the removal of the proposed amendment.

(3) Clause 11 of the original amendment bill
In the original amendment, the clause sought to withdraw permission from owners of mass media services publishing newspapers for sale for mass circulation from continuing owning local mass media services after 31 January 2002. In addition, the original amendment also sought to afford such persons disqualified from owning local mass media services three months within which to dispose of their ownership interest to persons who are qualified. This provision has now disappeared from the amendment to the amendment.

In our submissions to the Parliamentary Portifolio Committee on Transport and Communication, Minister Moyo and the PLC we noted that the main aim of the clause was to limit ownership of mass media services to citizens of Zimbabwe, permanent residents of Zimbabwe among others. The additional condition being introduced by that bill sought to suggest that one may remain being an owner of a mass media service as long as the mass media service of which he is owner does not publish a newspaper for sale for mass circulation.

We therefore questioned as to why only mass media owners of mass circulation newspapers were being targeted in this manner. In the absence of specified reasons that are reasonably justifiable in a democratic society, we submitted that this would clearly be discriminatory and as such unconstitutional.

We are also pleased to note that the Minister, through the advice probably received from the Parliamentary Legal Committee found favour with our submissions and did away with this very offending clause.

(4) Clause 3 of the original amendment
This clause seeks to amend Section 22 of AIPPA. There are slight changes to the provisions as they appeared in the Original Amendment.

The amendment to the amendment proposes to delete the heading of the section that reads, "Protection of Information relating to personal or public safety." It is sought to substitute with a new heading that reads, "Protection of Information relating to personal safety." In addition, the revised Bill will seek to have deleted Section 22(1) of AIPPA that granted the head of any public body upon request, the power to refuse to disclose information should s/he be of the view that disclosure would endanger the public in any way.

It is noted that both deletions would be better accommodated in the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and not AIPPA. It is hoped that the Minister will continue to realise that AIPPA cannot substitute the Constitution and as such should not come up with laws which apply to other Statutes.

(5) Clause 10 of the amendment
The original amendment introduced a new Section 64 after repealing the one that was in the Act. However the amendment to the amendment further amends the Section. The new section deals with the issue of Abuse of freedom of expression. We had submitted that there is no need for the substituted provision because the offences outlined in each of the subsections are adequately catered for within the confines of the common law offence/ civil law remedies. It was our argument that attempts to criminalize behavior in which relief may be obtained in a punitive damages order rather than through unnecessarily harsh imprisonment terms would be adjudged to contravene the right to freedom of expression, and would not be capable of protection under the provisions of section 20(2) of the Constitution. Whilst we had recommended that the section be removed in its entirety, the section has been brought with harsher penalties. The amendment to the amendment changes the penalty provision from being a level 7 fine to a level 14 fine (maximum is level 15) with the alternative prison term being increased from two years to three years.

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