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AIPPA tops the agenda

Amendments to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act were expected to top the agenda when parliament resumed seating in the second half of 2003.

Critics of AIPPA argued that the law contravened the constitutional right of freedom of expression and was meant to gag the independent media.

The Independent Journalists Association of Zimbabwe was challenging the constitutionality of AIPPA but the hearing scheduled to begin June 3 was postponed indefinitely after Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku said the court needed time to consider the Minister of Information Jonathan Moyo’s request to not hear the case.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 03HARARE1135, NEW” MEDIA AMENDMENT TOPS PARLIAMENT AGENDA

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

03HARARE1135

2003-06-04 14:46

2011-08-30 01:44

UNCLASSIFIED

Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 001135

 

SIPDIS

 

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER

LONDON FOR C. GURNEY

PARIS FOR C. NEARY

NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER

BANGKOK FOR W. DAYTON

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: PGOV ZI

SUBJECT: “NEW” MEDIA AMENDMENT TOPS PARLIAMENT AGENDA

 

REF: HARARE 874

 

——-

SUMMARY

——-

1. Parliament resumes on June 10, after a two-week

adjournment, to allow legislators to review the new text of

the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Amendment

Bill introduced by Minister Patrick Chinamasa on May 13. The

new text is by-and-large the old amendments with only one

substantive change pertaining to the composition of the

regulatory authority. Parliament will most likely debate the

fate of and dismiss Tafadzwa Musekiwa, MDC MP for Zengeza,

who has missed 21 consecutive days of Parliament. END

SUMMARY.

 

————————

AIPPA STILL ON THE TABLE

————————

 

2. On June 10, Parliament will resume debate on the Access to

Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) Bill, after

a two-week adjournment during which legislators reviewed the

new text Minister of Justice, Legal, and Parliamentary

Affairs Patrick Chinamasa introduced on May 13, 2003.

Chinamasa introduced and got passed a motion that the text of

the AIPPA Bill be treated as having already been introduced,

which means the new version of the Bill will not be

re-gazetted nor will it go through the Parliamentary Legal

Committee (PLC). It is unclear whether the passage of this

motion means the Bill will be fast-tracked, preventing debate

on the portfolio committee,s report.

 

3. The government will meet with the PLC on June 5 and 6 to

try to avert an adverse report. If the government is

successful in forestalling such a report, the Bill could

proceed to the Second Reading and the House could suspend the

necessary Standing Orders to circumvent the portfolio

committee and get this legislation passed into law before

this year,s Parliamentary Session adjourns. (NOTE:

Typically, at the second reading stage, the minister explains

the bill, the portfolio committee presents its report, and

debate on the bill follows. After the second reading, the

House goes through the bill line by line and adopts any

changes to it before it proceeds to the third reading when

Parliament passes the bill and it goes to the Head of State

for assent into law. END NOTE.)

 

4. AIPPA became law in March 2002 and restricts the operation

of Zimbabwe,s independent and foreign journalists and media

companies. (See Reftel). Critics of AIPPA contend that it

contravenes the constitutional right of freedom of expression

and is meant to gag the independent media. The Independent

Journalists Association of Zimbabwe (IJAZ) is challenging the

constitutionality of AIPPA and the hearing was scheduled to

begin June 3 but has been postponed indefinitely after

Supreme Court Chief Justice Chidyausiku, whose allegiance to

President Robert Mugabe is without question, said the court

needed time to consider the Minister of Information Jonathan

Moyo,s request to not hear the case.

 

5. The new set of amendments carry some changes that the

Portfolio Committee on Transport and Communications suggested

but most of the controversial elements of the Bill remain.

Changes to the Bill include:

 

–The deletion of the clause allowing the Minister of

Information and Publicity the authority to hand pick all the

members of the Media and Information Commission (MIC), the

body charged with registering, accrediting, and monitoring

mass media and journalists.

 

–The deletion of a clause prohibiting owners of mass media

services that publish newspapers for sale for mass

circulation from continuing to own local mass media services.

 

–The augmentation of the penalty for intentionally or

recklessly falsifying information, maliciously or

fraudulently fabricating information, or publishing any

knowingly false or reckless statement from a fine not

exceeding level seven or imprisonment not to exceed two years

to a fine not exceeding level 14 (maximum level is 15) or

imprisonment not to exceed three years. (NOTE: On May 7, the

Supreme Court ruled that this section, section 80, was

unconstitutional, violating Article 20 of the Zimbabwe

Constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression. END

NOTE.)

 

–The addition of a clause that would allow a foreign

journalist to stay in the country beyond the 30-day maximum

proposed before if the MIC feels that the accredited

journalist needs additional days to cover an event.

 

The remaining amendments, which would expand the list of mass

media products under government control and the restriction

of foreign journalists and media operators, remain unchanged.

 

 

———

ABSENT MP

———

6. Parliament is likely to debate the fate of Zengeza (a

high-density Harare suburb) MDC MP Tafadzwa Musekiwa,

who–having secured asylum in the UK–has missed more than

the constitutional limit of 21 consecutive days of

Parliament. Prior to the adjournment, Chinamasa gave notice

to move a motion that Parliament declare the seat vacant.

Gibson Sibanda, MDC Vice-President, delayed debate by

promising to persuade Musekiwa to resign by the June 10

resumption of Parliament. When the seat becomes vacant,

there would be three parliamentary by-elections (one ZANU-PF

seat, two MDC seats) due, although the government seems in no

hurry to set dates for them (The three seats would appear

safe for the previous incumbents’ parties, i.e. two MDC and

one ZANU-PF). To unseat Musekiwa, more than one-half of the

membership (76 people) would have to vote for his dismissal.

ZANU-PF currently has enough support between the elected MPs,

non-constituency MPs and provincial governors to exceed the

one-half mandate.

 

—————-

CITIZENSHIP BILL

—————-

7. The other bill that Parliament may work on before

concluding the Third Session is the Citizenship of Zimbabwe

Amendment Bill. The Citizenship Bill, which exempts persons

of Southern African Development Community parentage, who may

be citizens of these countries by descent, from compliance

with the dual citizenship prohibition and the requirement to

renounce the foreign citizenship in order to keep Zimbabwean

citizenship, has not had its first reading and still needs to

be considered by the parliamentary Legal Committee. One of

USAID,s contractors who is working on Zimbabwean

parliamentary reforms surmised that the government would try

to convince the PLC not to issue an adverse report on the

Citizenship Act amendments in their June 5 and 6 meetings.

If this happens, the House may be able to fast-track this

bill too.

 

——-

COMMENT

——-

8. The GOZ has been trying to push through the AIPPA Bill

since November 2002, when the PLC began deliberating on the

constitutionality of the Bill. The &new8 Bill that

legislators have been reviewing keeps the most controversial

elements of the Bill and makes a few cosmetic changes. In

particular, it will be interesting how the architects of

AIPPA will try to reconcile (or not) the Supreme Court,s

ruling that Section 80 is unconstitutional and the more

stringent punishment advocated in the new text. The big

question of the week will be how the executive and

legislative branches of government play the last week of the

Third Session of Parliament and whether the Executive will

ram the Bill through Parliament regardless of an adverse PLC

report or portfolio committee report. It will be a test of

the commitment of legislators to parliamentary reform. END

COMMENT

 

SULLIVAN

(24 VIEWS)

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