Source: Charamba speaks on AIPPA | The Herald June 26, 2017
Zvamaida Murwira in Bulawayo
Secretary for Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Mr George Charamba yesterday slammed civic society organisations who criticise Government institutions for not providing certain information to the media when no request has been made pursuant to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
He said a greater part of AIPPA related to access to information from public bodies, but the provisions had never been tested as no media practitioners had exercised the right conferred by the law to demand the relevant information held by public bodies.
Mr Charamba said this in Bulawayo during a dialogue convened by the parliamentary portfolio committee on justice, legal and parliamentary affairs chaired by Zvimba West MP Cde Ziyambi Ziyambi (Zanu-PF) and civic society organisations to consider a petition submitted to the legislature on the need to align the Electoral Act with the Constitution.
The interface meeting, which was supported by the Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust and Zimbabwe Institute, brought together stakeholders involved in election management.
Mr Charamba said a lot of time was wasted as the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Zimbabwe chapter) and players in the media industry fought Government on the legal requirement to register.
“We forgot the real nag of the matter is in respect of getting access to information for all public bodies.
“That part of the law has not been developed because it has not been tested and I am still wondering why no one has come to Charamba’s office to say ‘hey in terms of AIPPA you are required to provide this information in the public interest and compel me to provide information,” said Mr Charamba.
“So really, you cannot come here and claim that there is a problem in terms of accessing information when in fact, there is a whole law that entitles you to demand that information.
“The challenge is on journalists to take note of that.”
Mr Charamba said political formations could not claim that the print media was not covering them because the law allowed everyone to own a newspaper.
On broadcasting, Mr Charamba said he had reservations with Section 61 of the Constitution which compelled only the public media to be impartial, saying that obligation should be imposed on all broadcasting players since they were using a national resource, the frequency, which was a finite national property.
“What it means is that there is a law for black cats and another law for white cats.
“As far as I am concerned that distinction is needless. Impartiality must apply to all broadcasters,” said Mr Charamba, who described the provision as “weird”.
He, however, said he remained bound by the provision as it was the law that subsisted.
Mr Charamba said his Ministry would soon call for an all-stakeholder meeting to review broadcasting laws and environment given several technological changes that had taken place over the years.
He said the issue of frequency spectrum allocation ought to be reviewed as it could now be used by about 19 players instead of one.
Mr Charamba said his Ministry or State entities under his purview, cease to have any role in respect of superintending the media during election period as that responsibility was assumed by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.
He said any complaints against media organisations regarding how they covered an election should be directed to ZEC and not to the Zimbabwe Media Commission or the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe.
Mr Charamba said he was entitled to support a political party of his choice like any citizen, but that allegiance should not undermine his duty as a civil servant. This was after legislators had asked why he had indicated that he supported Zanu-PF yet he was a civil servant.
Speaking at the same occasion, University of Zimbabwe law lecturer Professor Lovemore Madhuku said some of the issues raised in the petition were already provided for by law, but required implementation.
He said law making was a political process and hence they had to push to ensure that they were implemented.