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AIPPA not consistent with SADC Guideline
October 21, 2004

The Minister of Information and Publicity Professor Jonathan Moyo on 20 October 2004 defended the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Amendment Bill 2004 claiming its provisions are consistent with the SADC principles and guidelines on good governance.

A close analysis of the SADC Principles, however, shows that the Bill falls far short of meeting the regional groupings' expectations and standards on democratic practice.

Despite the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), having been widely condemned as a repressive media law, the Bill seeks to tighten the Principal Act for purposes of providing a penalty for those journalists caught practicing without a licence.

Scores of journalists, the majority of them working for the vibrant privately-owned newspapers have been arrested and detained in police cells since the enactment of AIPPA in 2002.

None of those arrested have been convicted as charges have either been withdrawn before trial or thrown out by the courts.

Clause 3 of the Bill, among other clauses, seeks to amend Section 83 which prohibits unaccredited or suspended journalists from practicing journalism.

The provision will introduce a penalty which was not previously provided for in the form of a fine not exceeding $600,000 or two years imprisonment or to both such fine and imprisonment.

Contrary to Moyo's assertions during the Bill's second reading in parliament, the SADC principles do not at all call for, nor condone the criminalisation of the practice of journalism which is intricately linked to media freedom and freedom of expression - principles which are at the core of the democratic standards the region seeks to uphold.

In fact, the Principles stress the need for consolidation of democratic practices in the region.

Opposition MDC parliamentarians are opposing the Bill demanding the repeal of the entire Act saying it is contrary to all the SADC principles as it curtails press freedom.

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