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Journalists challenge the legality of MIC
MISA-Zimbabwe
June 04, 2009

Four freelance journalists, Stanley Gama, Stanley Kwenda, Jealous Mawarire and Valentine Maponga have filed an urgent application with the High Court challenging the legal status of the Media and Information Commission (MIC), following a directive last week by the Ministry of Media, Information and Publicity instructing all journalists wishing to cover the on-going Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) summit set for 7 to 9 June 2009 in Victoria Falls to seek accreditation with the MIC.

In terms of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), as amended in January 2008, the MIC led by Tafataona Mahoso no longer exists. Section 38 of statutory instrument No 20 of 2007 notes the creation of the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC), which replaces the MIC. To date, the ZMC has not been constituted.

As a result, the four journalists, in their application, contend that the MIC has no legal basis to require their registration so as to cover the COMESA Heads of State and Government Summit since it does not exist in terms of the law.

In his founding affidavit, Gama argues that Amendment No. 19 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe inserted a new chapter in Part 3 of the same document which provides for the establishment of a new ZMC.

"Any powers relating to accreditation, interlia have, therefore, been transferred from the first ZMC to the current ZMC. The provisions relating to empowering the current ZMC to make regulations remain intact, and as such, the Minister continues to have no power to make regulations, orders or issue notices in relation to accreditation of journalists. In any event, the Minister still cannot purport to exercise regulatory powers unless and until he is provided with written authorisation expressly delegating him such function from the ZMC, as stipulated in section 52(2) of the Act" says Gama.

This also comes pursuant to the Prime Minister's statement that journalists and media houses are no longer obliged to register with the defunct MIC.

The Prime Minister is cited as the fourth respondent in the matter in his official capacity as the person responsible for the executive arm of the inclusive government, and in charge of ensuring the proper implementation of both the law and policy.

Information Minister, Webster Shamu, the permanent secretary in the information ministry, George Charamba and Tafataona Mahoso are the first, second and third respondents in the matter respectively.

Selby Hwacha, who is representing the four journalists, contends that unless the court intervenes urgently, the applicants and the general public will suffer irreparable harm from which they have no other avenue of redress. Given that the Summit is of regional and international interest, the applicants' right to freely express themselves and disseminate information will have been unduly infringed if they were to be hindered from covering this event.

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