Several journalists who were facing charges of contravening sections of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act got no relief when the Supreme Court ruled that the constitutional challenge of sections of AIPPA was not urgent.
The court ruled that the journalists’ ability to report was not immediately threatened so there was no urgency to the case filed by three journalists working for international media organisations- Andrew Meldrum, Jan Raath and Peta Thornycroft.
The court was relying on testimony from Information Minister Jonathan Moyo.
Viewing cable 02HARARE1192, JOURNALISTS FACE CHARGES AS SUPREME COURT SAYS
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS HARARE 001192
DEPT FOR AF/PD (COX AND ROBERTSON), AF/S (KRAFT AND
SCHLACHTER), AF/RA (DIPALMA), NSC FOR JENDAYI FRAZER
LONDON FOR GURNEY
PARIS FOR BISA WILLIAMS
NAIROBI FOR PFLAUMER
E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: JOURNALISTS FACE CHARGES AS SUPREME COURT SAYS
CONSTITITUIONAL CHALLENGE NOT URGENT
¶1. On May 16 the Zimbabwe Supreme Court ruled that a
suit challenging the constitutionality of the Access to
Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) is
not urgent. This means that the Supreme Court will not
take immediate action on the suit, and the journalists
such as US citizen Andrew Meldrum will face AIPPA-
related criminal proceedings before the
constitutionality of the Act is decided.
¶2. On May 8 three journalists working in Zimbabwe for
international media organizations — Andrew Meldrum,
Jan Raath, and Peta Thornycroft — filed a
constitutional challenge to sections of the AIPPA.
Relying in part on testimony from Information Minister
Jonathan Moyo, the Supreme Court ruled that the
journalists’ ability to report was not immediately
threatened and that, therefore, there was no urgency to
the case. The Supreme Court will hear the case
sometime later in 2002.
¶3. Andrew Meldrum, meanwhile, will appear in court on
May 22 to answer charges that he violated Section
80.1.B of AIPPA (“abusing journalistic privilege by
publishing falsehoods”) when he filed a story alleging
that a woman had been beheaded by ruling party
supporters. “Daily News” reporter Lloyd Mudiwa will
also appear in court on May 22, facing the same charge.
¶4. Three journalists from the independent weekly
“Standard” — editor Bornwell Chakaodza and reporters
Fungayi Kanyuchi and Farai Mutsaka — will appear in
court on June 3 to face charges that they also violated
AIPPA. These three journalists were arrested on May
16, charged with “publishing falsehoods,” and released
on May 17 on Z$10,000 each. Their arrests came in the
wake of articles in the “Standard” about the
government’s purchase of riot-control vehicles and
alleging instances of corruption within the police
¶5. Zimbabwean reporters and editors, increasingly
under threat of being arrested and jailed for violating
AIPPA, take little comfort in the Supreme Court’s
determination that journalists’ ability to report is
not immediately threatened.