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Supreme Court upholds controversial media law
Media Institute of Southern Africa - Zimbabwe Chapter (MISA-Zimbabwe)
February 05, 2004

The Zimbabwe Supreme court ruled on 5 February 2004, that the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) is constitutional, casting a dark shadow over the future of the independent media in Zimbabwe.

In his ruling, Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku said that sections 79,83 and 85 of AIPPA are constitutional. The sections provide for accreditation of journalists, outlaw practising journalism without accreditation and empower a government appointed body, the Media and Information Commission (MIC) to develop and enforce a code of conduct respectively.

The Independent Journalists Association of Zimbabwe (IJAZ) took the MIC and the Minister of Information to the Supreme Court in November 2002, seeking the nullification of these sections on the basis that they are unconstitutional and impinge of their rights to free expression. IJAZ also challenged section 80 of AIPPA, but this section was amended before the judgement.

Supreme Court judge, Wilson Sandura however passed a dissenting judgement arguing that all the sections cited by IJAZ are unconstitutional. Judge Sandura said that they are enough remedies in Zimbabwe common law for those offended by the media to seek recourse. He added that the accreditation of journalist prescribed in AIPPA goes beyond administrative purposes as it involves the approval of the Minister and his permanent secretary plus the payment of fees.

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