Govt. will not repeal tough media law

BULAWAYO - Zimbabwe will not repeal a tough media law, which it has used over the last three years to arrest more than a hundred journalists and close down four newspapers, Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga has said.
Matonga said the government sees "nothing wrong" with the Access to Inf

ormation and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) under which journalists must register with the state’s Media and Information Commission (MIC) with those caught practising without being registered facing up to two years in jail.
Newspapers must also register with the MIC or face closure and seizure of their equipment if convicted of publishing without a registration certificate.
“There is nothing wrong with AIPPA and we are happy with the law. Some of the journalists who are clamouring for the repeal of the Act have never even read it,” said Matonga, who was addressing journalists in Bulawayo city last week during a belated celebration of the World Press Freedom Day.
Matonga said although his department has welcomed efforts by journalists to set up a voluntary self-regulating body for the Press, this did not mean the government would withdraw AIPPA or suspend the tough rules and regulations prescribed by the Act, considered one of the harshest Press laws in the world.
Defending government Press laws, Matonga said the AIPPA actually empowered journalists to access public information but said reporters were not aware of the rights and privileges given them by the Act.
“The problem is that some journalists have never read AIPPA and they do not know for instance that there are clauses in the Act which empower them to access public information,” said Matonga.
Zimbabwe, which also has a law imposing a maximum 20-year jail term on journalists for denigrating President Robert Mugabe in their stories, is classified by the World Association of Newspapers as one of the most dangerous places for the media in the world.
The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, which last year condemned violation of human and media rights in Zimbabwe, has called on Harare to repeal AIPPA among a raft of other repressive laws.
But the government, which has heavily relied on tough security and Press laws to suppress dissension in a country grappling its seventh year of acute economic recession, is moving to enact more repressive legislation with a new Interception of Communications Bill set to be passed this year. The new law will empower the state to spy on private telephone and internet communication.
The government has since 2003 used the AIPPA to close down five newspapers including Zimbabwe’s largest circulating and only non-government owned daily paper, the Daily News, which was shut down because it was not registered with the state media commission. – ZimOnline

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