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says won't repeal tough media, security laws
April 23, 2007
HARARE – The
Zimbabwe government will not repeal tough media and security laws
it has used over the past four years to shut down several newspapers
and arrest scores of journalists, new Information Minister Sikhanyiso
at the Quill national Press club in Harare, Ndlovu said the Access
to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and the
and Security Act (POSA) would not be changed because they were
necessary to control "irresponsible journalists" who wrote
lies about the country.
change AIPPA and POSA. These are laws that were enacted by Parliament,"
said Ndlovu, appointed to the information ministry two months ago
and until now seen as moderate and friendly to the media.
The AIPPA is
regarded as one of the harshest media laws in the world. Under the
law enacted five years ago, journalists are required to obtain licences
from the government’s Media and Information Commission in order
to practice in Zimbabwe.
can withdraw licences from journalists it may deem to be not toeing
the line. Journalists caught practising without a licence are reliable
to a two-year jail term under AIPPA.
being required to obtain licences, newspaper companies are also
required to register with the state commission with those failing
to do so facing closure and seizure of their equipment by the police.
journalists face up to two years in jail for publishing falsehoods
that may cause public alarm and despondency, while another law,
Codification Act, imposes up to 20 years in jail on journalists
convicted of denigrating President Robert Mugabe in their articles.
At least four
independent newspapers including the country’s biggest circulating
daily, The Daily News, were shut down over the past four years for
breaching the government’s media laws. Close to 100 journalists
were also arrested by the police over the same period.
But in the most
gruesome case of brutality against journalists to date, Edward Chikomba,
a former cameraman for the state-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation
(ZBC) who was now a freelancer for foreign media, was late last
month abducted by suspected state security agents and found murdered
several days later.
in the media believe he was murdered by state agents who accused
him of supplying foreign media with footage of a bruised opposition
leader Morgan Tsvangirai following his torture in police custody.
The footage sparked international condemnation of Mugabe and his
Gift Phiri, who works for the United Kingdom-based, The Zimbabwean
weekly newspaper, was earlier this month also abducted by the police
who allegedly severely assaulted and tortured him.
Quizzed by journalists
at the Quill, Ndlovu professed ignorance of the abduction of journalists
although he said in some cases police arrest journalists for writing
He said: "I
am not aware of such acts (abductions of journalists). I do not
have any report from the police or the responsible ministry that
there has been any abduction. What you call abductions may be arrests
of some journalists for writing blatant lies."
the Daily News – which was shut down for failing to register with
the state media commission – could still be allowed to reopen if
it complied with requirements. He did not say what these requirements
as I am concerned, The Daily News failed to comply with the law
(AIPPA) and when asked to do so it failed to satisfy the responsible
commission . . . if it complies with requirements, it would be allowed
back," said Ndlovu.
The Daily News,
which was closed down in 2003, has since then filed several applications
to be registered, which the media commission has however turned
down, forcing the paper to appeal to the courts. The matter is pending.
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