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MISA commended for drafting Model Access to Information Legislation
October 05, 2006

Zimbabwe's Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Communications has commended MISA-Zimbabwe for coming up with the Model Access to Information Legislation which directly challenges the restrictive Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA).

The Model was presented at a workshop on media law reforms organised by the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ) which comprises MISA-Zimbabwe, Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ) and the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists.

Committee Chairperson Leo Mugabe said the Model would go a long way in informing Parliament on the critical issues pertaining to access to information and aspects that should be contained in such legislation. Mugabe urged MISA-Zimbabwe to also submit the document to the Ministries of Information and Publicity and that of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.

Addressing participants to the workshop, MISA-Zimbabwe legal officer Wilbert Mandinde, noted with concern that in its current form, AIPPA had the opposite effect when it came to allowing for citizens' right to access to information. He cited the restriction of that right to the closure of the Daily News and Daily News on Sunday, The Tribune and Weekly Times by the statutory Media and Information Commission thereby denying citizens access to alternative sources of information and ideas notwithstanding the arrests and harassment of journalists on allegations of violating provisions of AIPPA.

Joram Nyathi, the deputy editor of the privately-owned Zimbabwe Independent who addressed the workshop on behalf of the Zimbabwe National Editors Forum, chronicled the difficulties journalists experience when it comes to interviewing government officials and accessing information in the interest of the public.

Under AIPPA journalists and citizens are required to submit questions to public institutions in writing while the custodians of the information so required have up to 30 days within which to respond subject to a further 30- day extension.

Nyathi said this made the work of journalists difficult given that news is a perishable commodity adding that the Act, contrary to its name and preamble had the effect of protecting public officials from scrutiny and accountability.

It is MISA-Zimbabwe’s strong view that an access to information law should lay out clear procedures on how members of the public should access information held on their behalf by both public and private bodies in order to protect and advance their rights.

The law should be premised on the need for government to open its activities to scrutiny by citizens on the basis of mutual trust and shared responsibilities with all sectors of society.

MISA-Zimbabwe came up with the Model as part of its lobby activities towards improving the media operating environment in Zimbabwe through increased access to information among other contentious issues.

Visit the MISA-Zimbabwe fact sheet

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