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Defence of AIPPA
Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ)
Extracted from Weekly Media Update 2004-42
Monday October 18th - Sunday October 24th 2004

IF the government media were not glossing over the country’s flawed electoral reforms, they were unquestioningly endorsing government’s moves to further curtail the citizenry’s right to receive and impart information without hindrance.

They cheered the authorities’ lie that the amendments to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) were consistent with the SADC principles and guidelines on democratic elections.

This was illustrated by the manner in which they exclusively reported on Information Minister Jonathan Moyo’s Parliamentary defence of the proposed amendments, which purportedly seeks to "clarify" or "improve" some sections of AIPPA, but downplayed MDC MPs’ contribution on the matter.

The MPs’ concerns were only reasonably highlighted in the private media.

In their report on the debate ZTV (19/10, 8pm) and Power FM (20/10, 6am), allowed Moyo to mislead the public by claiming that the amendments and other clauses of AIPPA were "based on an Act, which is consistent with principles of good governance enshrined in SADC principle and guidelines governing democratic elections."

None of the government media measured such claims against the SADC electoral principles, one of which calls on member States to guarantee media freedom and equitable access to the public media of contesting political parties.

Instead, The Herald and Chronicle (20/10) simply followed their broadcasting counterparts and severely restricted the MDC’s objections to the AIPPA amendment. In fact, The Herald only gave prominence to the ejection from Parliament of two MDC MPs for disobeying orders. The two were reportedly ejected from the chamber after they allegedly "continuously demanded" that the House be divided during the second reading of AIPPA.

In contrast, the private media gave fair exposure to the MDC MPs’ strong opposition to the provisions of AIPPA. The Daily Mirror (20/10) and the Independent (22/10), for example, revealed that Moyo had actually been subjected to "withering attack" from MDC MPs for "abusing the public media to further his political ambitions" during Parliamentary debate on the AIPPA amendment Bill.

The Independent reported the MDC MPs as arguing that Moyo had become an "ambitious" and "dangerous" politician who should actually be reined in by both ZANU PF and MDC legislators because no one was safe from his machinations to entrench his control on the media for "personal political gain".

Gonese reportedly told Parliament: "We know the minister wants complete control…In the Sunday Mail he calls himself ‘Under the Surface’. He also calls himself…(Lowani) Ndlovu or Mzala Joe or Nathaniel Manheru…He even writes stories in The Sunday Mail under the by-line of Munyaradzi Huni."

But despite such observations, The Daily Mirror (21/10) revealed that the authorities’ defence of AIPPA had reached ludicrous and blasphemous levels after the head of the government-appointed Media Information Commission, Tafataona Mahoso, projected the impression that the repressive law, just like the Bible, was modelled to guard against the peddling of falsehoods. He thus claimed Zimbabwe was "not caught between the free flow of information and the so-called draconian laws" but that the issue was about "embedded journalists promoting harmful relations on behalf of Western countries".

While Mahoso was glorifying the virtues of AIPPA, the Independent reported that Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights had taken government to the African Commission on Human Rights and People’s Rights over its closure of The Daily News and The Daily News on Sunday under the same law. The Independent cited the papers’ lawyer, Professor Michello Hansungule, as saying he believed that his clients’ case had merit because they were denied their basic right to have their dispute with the Zimbabwe government over the constitutionality of AIPPA determined by the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, SW Radio Africa (19/10) reported that two more journalists working for the private media had been arrested in Gweru and Kwekwe and charged under AIPPA.

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