Journalists have petitioned the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) to repeal the recently gazetted accreditation fees for media practitioners.
The new fee structure is contained in Statutory Instrument 65 of 2022, Access to Information and Protection of Privacy (Registration, Accreditation and Levy) (Amendment) Regulations, 2022 (No.10).
According to the SI, accreditation fees for local journalists have been pegged at US$20 for first-time applicants, US$15 for renewals and US$10 for replacing a lost card.
Local journalists who work for foreign media houses will pay an application fee of US$50, an accreditation fee of US$150 and US$150 for renewal of accreditation.
Foreign journalists who want to work temporarily in Zimbabwe will pay an application fee of US$50, an accreditation fee of US$150 and US$2500 for productions or projects.
Leopold Munhende, Zenzele Ndebele, and the Young Journalists Association of Zimbabwe (YOJA) through their lawyer, Chris Mhike of Atherstone and Cook issued a 48-hour ultimatum to ZMC and the information minister Monica Mutsvangwa to repeal the SI failure to which they will approach the courts.
“Our clients strongly loathe the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), and its subsidiary instruments, specifically including the just-published Access to Information and Protection of Privacy (Registration, Accreditation and Levy) (Amendment) Regulations, 2022 (No.10),” wrote Mhike in a letter dated 11 April.
The journalists argued that the regulations were made using a repealed law and also questioned the independence of ZMC.
“Reference in the SI to ‘approval by the Minister,’ is therefore antagonistic to the concept of regulatory independence, and therefore an additional pointer to the ‘Regulations’ invalidity.”
The journalists also pointed out that the fees were exorbitant and ‘constitutes a challengeable hindrance to media freedom”.
“The dollarisation of the fee structure is itself also quite perplexing. The inclusion of a qualification to the effect that the United States Dollar (USD) charges may be paid in local currency, does not cure the SI of the dollarisation stink,” wrote Mhike.
The journalists also argued that the SI is an attempt by the ZMC and the ministry to revive AIPPA “a nightmarish statute that the media industry jubilantly declared recently, to be a dead and buried relic from the ‘First Republic’”.
In response to the petition, ZMC Chairperson Professor Ruby Magosvongwe said the journalists’ demands were not sincere and did not give the Commission room for any discussions or time to remedy the concerns.
“This being the case, it is the Commission’s view that you proceed with the demand in the manner you have highlighted,” said Prof Magosvongwe.
Minister Mutsvangwa is yet to respond.