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Amendment to AIPPA forced through Parliament
Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ)
Extracted from Weekly Media Update 2004-44
Monday November 1st - Sunday November 7th 2004

AS this report was being completed an amendment to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) was forced through Parliament, which now provides for a custodial penalty and/or a fine for journalists practising this so-called "privilege" without a licence from the government-appointed Media and Information Commission.

The original Act (as amended) omitted to provide a penalty for this offence identified in the law.

So instead of repealing this repressive legislation to conform to the SADC principles and guidelines on elections encouraging media diversity and the free flow of information, the government has added to the repressive nature of the law by imposing a completely disproportionate penalty for what, at best, should be a petty administrative matter. This law should not even be on Zimbabwe’s statute books, let alone providing for intimidating custodial penalties for the unreasonably restrictive provisions contained in the Act.

And despite the fact that The Herald (10/11) reported that this latest amendment "sailed" through Parliament, this would not have been the case if government officials had not broken Parliament’s own rules on voting procedures.

While The Herald (10/11) briefly and vaguely referred to opposition party objections to the vote as a result of the late arrival of ruling party MPs, The Daily Mirror of the same day gave a more accurate picture to this latest example of the authorities’ disdain for the law - ironically perpetrated under the guise of enacting legislation meant to maintain law and order.

In its story, Pandemonium in Parliament, the Mirror reported that despite regulations barring late arrivals, some ZANU PF MPs who were not in the chamber at the time voting began were allowed in to cast their votes on the amendments after Information Minister Jonathan Moyo threatened parliamentary officials with unspecified action.

However, none of the media questioned whether this latest incident was redolent of a total disregard for democratic principles and the due process of the law by ruling party officials.

For instance, none of the media reminded the public of similar incidents in which ruling party MPs suspended parliamentary procedures to ram through unconstitutional laws that clearly should not have a place in the statutes of a country whose government repeatedly claims to be democratic and respectful of the rule of law.

In fact, the authorities’ strident claims that they adhere to the rule of law are further belied by their open defiance of several court orders seeking to protect the rights of individuals, the most recent example being their defiance of an interdict preventing the deportation of the South African trade union delegation (Cosatu) that visited Zimbabwe on a fact-finding mission recently.

The media have not properly examined how these cumulative violations of court orders by government undermine the rule of law in the country.

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