ZMC seeks review of accreditation fees

The accreditation of journalists has been put on hold following resolutions by the Zimbabwe Media Commission board to have the accreditation licences of media houses and journalists reviewed.

Information gathered by The Zimbabwean established that the board made an application to the ministry of Information to have the fees reviewed.

However, it could not be established whether the application was made to review the fees upwards or downwards. Currently, ZMC is waiting for government to gazette the new fees before accreditation can start.

An official at ZMC who refused to be identified said the board would by the end of this month invite journalists and media house to apply for accreditation.

ZMC Board Chairperson Godfrey Majonga confirmed to The Zimbabwean that the board met on December 19, 2013 and made a resolution to seek government approval to have the accreditation fees reviewed.

Said Majonga, “I cannot disclose whether we applied to have the accreditation fees reviewed upwards or downwards, but we applied to the responsible ministry for a review.”

Valid for a year, the accreditation of journalists is done through the ZMC and is provided for by section 79 of Access to Information of Protection and Privacy Act which deals with the compulsory accreditation of journalists.

According to ZMC, a media body created through section 38 (1) of the AIPPA which became law in 2008 and later through Constitutional Amendment Number 19 of February 2009: which elevated it to a Constitutional Commission, all accreditation cards expire on December 31 of each year. Journalists are required to renew their accreditation status before the year ends.

Journalists and media houses who fail to renew their accreditation status by this day are levied a daily penalty fee as prescribed by the Act.

Last year, the application fee for mass media houses was $500, registration $2,000 and renewal was $1,500. News agencies were supposed to pay $300 in application fees, $1, 500 for registration and $1,000 for renewal of their accreditation.

Local journalists parted with a $10 application fee, $30 for accreditation while those that were renewing paid $20 annually.

Journalists working for foreign media houses paid $100 as application fees, $400 for accreditation and $300 renewal fees while SADC media representatives paid $500 application fee and $2,000 for accreditation.

Majonga said currently, ZMC was not accrediting any journalists.

“Considering that most of the activities had been shelved because of the holidays, we are optimistic that by the end of the month, government would have made progress and accreditation will commence,” he said.

The Information Minister, Professor Jonathan Moyo’s mobile phone went unanswered and his deputy said he was not in a position to comment since he was on leave.

“The minister is better positioned to comment on that issue because I am away and am not privy to the latest developments,” said Mandiwanzira.

Said a freelancer who refused to be identified, “ZMC should make the fees affordable for everyone to ensure that every practising journalist is in a position to apply for accreditation. This will improve the performance of all media practitioners.”

Last year, ZMC revealed that since its formation in 2009, at least 85 media organisations had been registered by the body.

In Zimbabwe, accredited journalists are entitled to the following journalistic privileges: to enquire, gather, receive and disseminate information, visit parliament and any other public body for the purposes of carrying out journalistic duties, make recordings in connection with carrying out duties as a journalist and to be given prior access to records and documents to which access is permitted by AIPPA among others.

However, accredited journalists have sometimes been denied access to public events and information while some have been harassed by the law enforcement agents and have had their apparatus confiscated.

On October 15 2010, accredited journalists were denied entry by state security agents to cover the graduation ceremony at Great Zimbabwe University in Masvingo, an event that was officiated by President Robert Mugabe.

According to a local daily the security agents demanded invitation cards, similar to those issued to graduates and relatives although the journalists availed their accreditation cards.

It is alleged that they were only allowed to cover the ceremony after the University's Public Relations Officer, Anderson Chipatiso intervened, but journalists from the private media were barred from covering the event with their cameras.

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