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Newspaper editor convicted of practicing journalism without accreditation

(MISA/IFEX) - Bright Chibvuri, the editor of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union's bi-weekly newspaper "The Worker", has been convicted of contravening section 83(1) of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), which criminalises practicing journalism without accreditation. Chibvuri is appealing to the High Court against both the conviction and the sentence.

On 29 April 2008, Chibvuri, who pleaded not guilty to the offence, was convicted and ordered either to pay a fine of Z$2 billion (approx. US$6) or face 10 days of imprisonment.

Chibvuri's lawyer, Munyaradzi Nzarayapenga, filed a notice of appeal with the Bulawayo High Court on 15 May. Nzarayapenga argues that Plumtree Resident Magistrate Mark Dzira erred in ignoring clear evidence that Chibvuri was a duly accredited journalist, and was wrong in refusing to accept as evidence Chibvuri's valid press card, which was produced in court to show that Chibvuri was accredited for all of 2007, including on the date of his arrest.

According to Nzarayapenga, Dzira failed to distinguish accreditation from renewal of accreditation, and he also erred in convicting Chibvuri for not being in possession of a valid press card when the alleged offence was that he was not accredited (as opposed to not being in possession of the card).

As for the sentence, Nzarayapenga says it is too harsh and that Dzira erred in failing to consider that Chibvuri was a first offender and a family man who could lose his job as a result of the conviction.

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