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Media organisations statement on the judgment by the Supreme Court in the Independent Journalists Association of Zimbabwe (IJAZ) matter
IJAZ, MISA-Zimbabwe and MMPZ
February 05, 2004

Zimbabwe media 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).

The aforementioned 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.

Notwithstanding 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 democracy.

Despite the ruling, we maintain that AIPPA is a bad law and should be repealed.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.

Visit the IJAZ fact sheet
Visit the MISA-Zimbabwe fact sheet

Visit the MMPZ fact sheet

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