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Government backs down on accreditation policy for journalists

(MISA/IFEX) - In a statement released on 24 June 2009, the Ministry of Media, Information and Publicity said it had no intention of defying a provisional High Court order granted in favour of four freelance journalists but attributed delays in complying with the order in question to financial constraints.

This followed High Court judge Justice Bharat Patel's provisional order on 5
June in favour of the challenge on the legality of the defunct Media
and Information Commission (MIC) lodged by four journalists, Stanley Gama,
Valentine Maponga, Stanley Kwenda and Jealousy Mawarire. In their urgent
application the four journalists challenged the legality of accrediting with
the defunct MIC to cover the Common Market for East and Southern Africa
(COMESA) Summit which was underway in the resort town of Victoria Falls as had been announced by the Ministry.

"We refer to the court order that was granted by way of interim relief in a
provisional order on 5 June by his Lordship, Justice Bharat Patel, in
the case of Stanley Gama and 3 Others v Minister of Media Information and
Publicity and 3 Others, Case No. HC 2355/2009. In compliance with the said court order, we unreservedly and unconditionally retract and withdraw the contents of the said statement," reads part of the statement issued by Minister Webster Shamu and his permanent secretary, George Charamba.

"We also wish to apologise for the delay in issuing this statement, which was in itself caused by a delay in receiving appropriate legal advice."

On 5 June, Justice Patel granted the interim relief sought by the
journalists and ordered that the Minister and his permanent secretary
issue a retraction on statements published on 22, 23 and 24 May
relating to matters of accreditation of journalists and media houses by the
MIC and that the applicants be allowed to cover the Summit without having to produce accreditation cards. The ministry, however, did not comply with the order until the issuance of its statement on 24 June.

Security agents barred the journalists from the summit venue on 7 June
insisting that the journalists, despite the production of the High Court
order, could not cover the event as they were not on the Ministry of Media,
Information and Publicity's list of journalists accredited to cover the
summit.

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