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African Commission to hear Aippa challenge

Ndamu Sandu

THE African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) will hear an application against the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa) at its 37th Ordinary Session in

Gambia next month.

The session runs from April 27 to May 11.

Applicants in the case are the Independent Journalists Association of Zimbabwe (Ijaz), Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), and the Zimbabwe chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) while the respondent is cited as the Republic of Zimbabwe.

In correspondence to the applicants’ lawyers, Scanlen & Holderness, ACHPR said it had received a communication from the applicants.

“The communication has been registered…It will be considered for seizure at the 37th Ordinary Session of the African Commission for Human and People’s Rights scheduled to take place from 27 April to 11 May 2005, in Banjul, The Gambia,” wrote Omari Holaki, officer-in-charge of ACHPR affairs.

In papers filed with the commission, the applicants argue that compulsory registration of journalists as stipulated by Section 79 and the abuse of journalistic privilege cited by Section 80 of Aippa are an infringement on freedom of expression.

Parts of Section 80 have been struck down by the Supreme Court.

The applicants said the two sections were in contravention of Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights to which Zimbabwe is a signatory.

The applicants noted that accreditation fees provided for under Zimbabwean law “are an additional restriction on freedom of expression”.

The applicants contend that compulsory accreditation of journalists by the Media and Information Commission interferes with professional independence and autonomy of the journalism profession.

“Independence and autonomy of the journalism profession are essential for the free receipt and dissemination of information, ideas and beliefs,” the applicants noted.

The applicants said they had sought audience with the ACHPR because they had exhausted local remedies. This week the Supreme Court upheld contentious sections of Aippa as constitutional in an application by Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe.

Since the enactment of Aippa in 2002, four newspapers have been closed down, namely the Daily News, Daily News on Sunday, Tribune and the Weekly Times.

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