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Commission defers hearing challenge on media law
November 28, 2006
HARARE – The African Commission on
Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) has deferred to the next session
an appeal filed by Zimbabwean civic groups challenging the country’s
tough media law.
The civic groups which include the
Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), the Independent Journalists
Association of Zimbabwe (IJAZ) and the Zimbabwe
Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) want the African Commission
to put pressure on Harare to repeal Access
to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), which
they say violates the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.
The meeting which is being held in
Banjul, The Gambia ends on Wednesday.
The deferment comes after the Zimbabwe
government through its director of policy and legal research in
the Ministry of Justice, Margaret Chiduku, asked for more time to
allow for consultations between itself and the Media Institute of
Southern Africa (MISA) which has presented to the government a new
draft media law.
Chiduku said the postponement will
allow discussions over the matter to proceed in a much more harmonious
manner. The government says it will consider the proposals by MISA
as the basis for discussion with the civic groups.
"We have submitted it to our Attorney
General who is in charge of drafting legislation. We have compared
it with existing legislation. The third complainant (MISA-Zimbabwe)
has also submitted the model to Parliament," said Chiduku.
MISA-Zimbabwe legal officer, Wilbert
Mandinde, confirmed to the Commission that they had submitted model
legislation to the government but expressed fears that the deferment
could be a tactic by Harare to buy more time on the matter.
Mandinde said should Harare fail to
deal with the matter between now and the next session, the Commission
should proceed to deal with the matter during its 41st session next
Chiduku also told the commissioners
that the government had consented to the setting up of a self-regulatory
body, the Media Council of Zimbabwe, in December.
Zimbabwe has some of the harshest media
laws in the world. For example, journalists are liable to a two-year
jail term if they are caught practising without a licence from the
government’s Media and Information Commission (MIC).
Newspapers are also required to register
with the MIC with those failing to do so facing closure and seizure
of their equipment by the police.
At least four independent newspapers
including the biggest circulating daily, The Daily News, have been
shut down over the past three years. - ZimOnline
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