HARARE – The Media Institute of Southern Africa Zimbabwe chapter (MISA-Zimbabwe) has expressed concern at the mistaken belief concerning the Media and Information Commission (MIC)'s continued existence by the Permanent Secretary for Media, Information and Publicity, George Charamba, following comments he recently made with regard to his interpretation of its legal status.\r\n
"In terms of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), as amended in January 2008, Section 38 of the statutory instrument notes the creation of the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) which replaces the Media Information Commission. Section 38 reads, ‘Established is a commission to be known as the Zimbabwe Media Commission, which shall be a body corporate capable of suing and being sued in its corporate name and, subject to this Act, of performing all acts that bodies corporate may by law perform…”
"The interpretation clause of the same Act explicitly defines the word “Commission” as referring to the ZMC. Therefore legally the ZMC is deemed to exist pending its constitution. Mr Charamba contends that the law only removed the MIC and not the administrative structure. The position of the law clearly reflects otherwise," said MISA-Zimbabwe in a statement.
MISA-Zimbabwe called on the information ministry to put an end to the confusion regarding registration of media houses and the accreditation of journalists after the recent remarks by the Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai that journalists have no obligation to be accredited.
"It is only fair that the law is not deliberately or conveniently interpreted in an attempt to deter journalists from going about their normal duties," said the organisations.
Misa-Zimbabwe noted that although the functions of the ZMC are largely similar to those of the former MIC as set out in Section 39, there is no clause or provision in the Act which presupposes that the MIC shall be transformed into the ZMC nor is there any intimation that the former may execute the duties expressly mandated to the latter.
"In fact the wording of the Act clearly anticipates the formation of the ZMC and sets out the manner of appointment of the new office bearers. In relation to foreign media houses and journalists, Section 79(4) reads, “A journalist who is not a citizen of Zimbabwe, or is not regarded as permanently resident in Zimbabwe by virtue of the Immigration Act [Chapter 4:02], may be accredited for any period specified by the Commission not exceeding sixty days”.
"The “Commission” referred to under this section is the ZMC as alluded to under the interpretation clause. Therefore, unless the ZMC is sooner constituted, there shall be no legal obligation on the part of any foreign journalist to be accredited, let alone pay for accreditation," said Misa-Zimbabwe.
The organisation poinetd out that under the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No.19) Act which ideally should supersede all other legal instruments, reference is only made in respect of the ZMC in Section 100. There is no mention of the MIC, in either express or implied terms.
"Given this legal position, it is apparent that the statements expressed Mr. Charamba are not founded on any cogent legal basis or interpretation of the law and really do not serve to advance or foster the right to freedom of expression and freedom of the press," said Misa-Zimbabwe.