Former AG calls for repeal of Aippa, Posa

March 19, 2012 at 11:04 am Leave a comment

By Lloyd Mbiba

HARARE – Zimbabwe should embrace the reform agenda to get rid of bad laws
such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa), a
former top government lawyer has said.

Former Attorney General (AG), Andrew Chigovera said the act’s wording is a
misnomer as the act actually hinders access to information.

“Aippa is a window show, on the surface it looks like it is guaranteeing
access, while deep down it is embedded with clauses that provide for the
deprivation of information,” Chigovera said.

Aippa was passed into law in 2002, and has been employed to stifle the media
and harass journalists.

Chigovera, who also served as a Commissioner with the African Commission on
Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), castigated the provisions of Aippa saying
they were never intended to provide access to information.

He further noted that the provisions were not in line with international
standards and best practice.

The former AG said Aippa contravenes the requirement that any limitations to
freedom of expression must be reasonably justifiable in a democratic
society.

“Despite Zimbabwe being a signatory to many human rights conventions that
enshrine Freedom of Expression (Foe), the nation remains a closed society.

Zimbabwe is paying lip service to the abuse of freedom of expression yet it
is one of the countries to ratify the conventions,” he said.

Chigovera added that the country needs to embrace the reform agenda saying
freedom of expression was the life-blood of a democratic society.

He also went on to say Aippa was promulgated to hinder freedom of expression
than protect it.

“Aippa has watered down the right to know. It was never intended to provide
access to information but to prohibit it. The right to access to information
can never be over emphasised because it is the cornerstone of every
democracy. The law takes more than what it gives and as such we need a
reform agenda in the country,” Chigovera said.

He added: “In the new constitution laws such as Aippa and Posa should never
see the light because media freedom is critical.”

Aippa has been used to shut down at least four newspapers, including the
Daily News which has been re-launched.

Aippa provides for statutory regulation of the media.

The wording of the act in general is vague and thus it is open to abuse.

Section 9(4) of Aippa gives the head of a public body the authority to
refuse access to information if it is in the public interest to do so.

The Act is not clear on what public interest means or entails. As a result —
a wide variety of circumstances may be described as being in the public
interest in a bid to prevent access to information.

When the draconian law was passed, the then Media and Information Commission
(MIC) led by Tafataona Mahoso embarked on a crusade to silence independent
newspapers.

Four newspapers, including the Daily News and Daily News On Sunday were
shutdown by armed police in September 2003 following a Supreme Court ruling
which said they were operating outside Aippa after the two titles refused to
register with the MIC.

The two papers had all its equipment including computers seized by police
who up to this day, eight years on, have kept them at a prison.

Other papers that were shutdown by the MIC include the Tribune and the
Weekly Times.

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