THE legal fight to force government to repeal draconian sections of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa) has made progress at the African Commission for Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) which is set to make a c
rucial ruling on the matter before year-end.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), together with the Independent Journalists Association of Zimbabwe and the Media Institute of Zimbabwe, took the issue to the commission following the failure of a Supreme Court application by local journalists challenging the provisions of the Act two years ago. Civic groups can take cases to the commission if they feel they have exhausted all local remedies to force their governments to uphold human rights.
The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Aippa, notably the accreditation of journalists and registration of media houses and the powers and composition of the government-appointed Media and Information Commission.
“The applicants have exhausted local remedies,” says the communication sent to the commission. “They have litigated the two issues in the highest court in Zimbabwe.
“The Supreme Court of Zimbabwe declared null and void only unintentional publication or fabrication of falsehoods and declined to declare unconstitutional intentional publication of falsehoods and compulsory accreditation of journalists. In the premises, the applicants are left without a remedy other than the remedy provided for in the African Charter for Human and Peoples’ Rights.”
The Aippa case went through the preliminary stages of “seizure” in May. Evidence on the admissibility of the communication from civic groups was then presented with legal representatives from the state and the NGOs filing papers and giving oral evidence. The commission is now set to make a ruling on whether government has complied with provisions of the ACHPR charter regarding freedom of information. The government of Zimbabwe is a signatory to the charter.
The government was represented at the commission by Director of the Civil Division in the Attorney-General’s Office Loice Matanda-Moyo while Sternford Moyo of Scanlen & Holderness represents civil groups.
If the commission rules in favour of the civic groups the matter will be set down for a full hearing. The government has expressed its willingness to consider amendments to Aippa but has not yet moved on the issue. – Staff Writer.