‘Scrap info fee for journalists’

Walter Mswazie Masvingo Correspondent
Journalists in Masvingo have recommended that the Freedom of Information Bill should ensure that fees on requesting public information be scrapped, as they infringe on people’s rights to information.

According to the draft Bill, fees are charged for typing, searching and translating information in the language understood by the applicant.

The Bill also stipulates that the information officer is given up to 21 days from the previous 60 days to release information.

Speaking during a public hearing on the Bill by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services at the Civic Centre in Masvingo yesterday, local journalists said there was no need to place a cost on a constitutional right.

Ms Hazvinei Mwanaka, a freelancer said: “I think it is not fair to charge us for asking for any information or any data that we want to use in writing our stories. Information should be obtained at zero cost.”

Ms Sokuoluhle Nepa of The Standard said the Bill should limit the period within which information can be obtained from Government departments.

“We also want information to be obtained within the shortest possible time,” she said.

“The draft Bill says the information officer is expected to release information or any required data within a period of 21 days.

“This is too long a time because we will need that information for our stories, which are perishable in nature. The time should be reduced to at least three days or even a day.”

Chairman of the committee, Mr Prince Sibanda, hailed the active participation of the media personnel, saying it showed that local journalists were knowledgeable of the topical issues affecting  information.

“We had participants who are not journalists and I am happy with their inputs,” he said.

“But journalists were more active and their contributions were constructive.”