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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have been convicted as charges have either been withdrawn before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.
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.
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
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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