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organisations statement on the judgment by the Supreme Court in
the Independent Journalists Association of Zimbabwe (IJAZ) matter
February 05, 2004
organisations, the Independent Journalists Association of Zimbabwe,
(IJAZ), Media Institute of Southern Africa-Zimbabwe Chapter (MISA-Zimbabwe)
and the Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe (MMPZ), note with dismay
and disappointment today’s judgment by the Supreme Court which upheld
contested provisions of the Access to Information and Protection
of Privacy Act (AIPPA).
organisations note that the Supreme Court concedes that section
20 of the Zimbabwe constitution guarantees freedom of expression
and the right to receive and impart information, which includes
freedom of the press, the same court still upheld sections 79, 83
and 85. The sections provide for accreditation of journalists, outlaw
practising journalism without accreditation and empower MIC to develop
and enforce a code of conduct respectively.
We however insist
the sections in question pose a serious threat to the work of journalists
and infringe on their rights to freedom of expression and that of
the media. These sections compel all journalists to be accredited
by MIC and make it a criminal offence to practise journalism without
accreditation. While there is nothing wrong with accreditation for
administrative purposes, we are concerned however that the MIC and
the Minister of Information are accorded quasi-judicial powers to
decide who works as journalist or not. In other words the MIC and
the Minister have arbitrary powers to decide who may or may not
practice as a journalist.
the judgment, it is our strong view that the contested sections
of AIPPA impinge on the exercise of freedom of expression. We further
note that since its enactment AIPPA has been selectively applied
against the privately owned media whose journalists have been constantly
and consistently arrested, detained and harassed. We insist that
AIPPA is an unnecessary evil in a country that purports to be a
ruling, we maintain that AIPPA is a bad law and should be repealed.
We also reiterate that governments have no role to play in deciding
who may practice as a journalist. The latest judgment comes against
a backdrop of yet another controversial Supreme Court judgment which
demanded that the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe comply with
the law in question before seeking relief from the courts on the
constitutionality of AIPPA. The judgment delivered on 11 September
2003 has been criticised by legal experts, human rights lawyers
as illogical and worrying.
We also take
note of Supreme Court Judge Wilson Sandura’s dissenting judgment
in which he argues that all the contested sections are unconstitutional
and that there exists enough remedies in Zimbabwe’s common law for
those offended by the media.
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