COMMISSIONS WATCH 08/2020 - Suspension of Accreditation for Journalists and Other Media Practitioners

COMMISSIONS WATCH 8/2020

ZIMBABWE MEDIA COMMISSION

[10th June 2020]

Suspension of Accreditation for Journalists and Other Media Practitioners

In compliance with a High Court order of 3rd June 2020 granted by Justice Zhou against the Zimbabwe Media Commission [ZMC] in a case brought by the Zimbabwe Online Content Creators Trust [ZOCC], has announced that the Commission "has temporarily suspended the accreditation of all media practitioners".   

The ZMC’s press statement on the matter is as follows:

“his notice serves to inform all stakeholders that the Zimbabwe Media Commission has temporarily suspended the accreditation of all media practitioners following a High Court Interdict obtained by the Zimbabwe Online Content Creators Trust (ZOCC).  The High Court judgement interdicts the Commission from proceeding with the current accreditation framework that had introduced two additional categories for filmmakers and online content creators which in the past were accredited as journalists.

It is in the spirit of upholding the Court judgement that the Commission has temporarily stopped accreditation of media practitioners.  The Commission needs time to interpret and understand the judgement and its implications.

The Commission will soon be meeting with stakeholders to deliberate on the issue of accreditation of media practitioners.  The Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), the legal instrument proving for registration and accreditation, only provides for the accreditation of journalists who meet certain basic standards as contained in Statutory instrument 169C of 2002, Second Schedule (Section 2) and the requirements as per Form AP3 which is part of the schedule.

The Commission will soon issue a statement on the resumption of the accreditation process after meeting with stakeholders and the legal implications of the judgement.

Issued by the Zimbabwe Media Commission
08 June 2020”

Effect of the suspension – 2019 accreditations continue

Although the above statement does not say so in as many words, it can only mean that, as far as the ZMC is  concerned, the position has, for the time being, reverted to that announced in its press statement of 30th March 2020 and endorsed by the Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services on behalf of Government.  That statement admitted that the ZMC had not started accreditation for 2020, said that the delay would continue because of measures against the COVID-19 pandemic, and continued:

“Journalists are advised to continue using their 2019 accreditation cards. All stakeholders are being advised to accept and recognise journalists using 2019 accreditation cards.”

The Court  Order

Justice Zhou’s order against ZMC was in two parts: (1) an order requiring ZMC to come back to the court in due course to show cause why a final order should not be made ordering it to drop its new accreditation framework and revert to accreditation in accordance with AIPPA and the regulations made under it; and (2) an immediately effective interim interdict or order stopping it from applying its new accreditation categories to ZOCC members pending the court’s eventual decision on (1). 

Background Material Available on the Veritas website

The following items can be downloaded from the Veritas website using the hyperlinks indicated:

  1. Justice Zhou’s full judgment in the case referred to above: Zimbabwe Online Content Creators Trust v Zimbabwe Media Commission [link]
  2. The ZMC’s press statements of 21st May [link] and 22nd May [link], both referred to in Justice Zhou’s judgment  .
  3. Commissions Watch 1/2020 of 10th February 2020 [link] which observed that since the end of 2014 the ZMC been without a chairperson and all other commissioners and notified Parliament’s initiative to remedy this unconstitutional situation by inviting public nominations of candidates to reconstitute the Commission.  This invitation was the belated first step in the constitutional process for the appointment of new commissioners by the President from candidates recommended by Parliament’s Committee on Standing Rules and Orders [after having conducted public interviews of qualified candidates].  This process has not advanced since then because of measures against the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

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2020

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