Accreditation as a Foreign Journalist in Zimbabwe

First Published: July 20, 2017

By: Prince Kanokanga

In the beginning it is useful to start by reflecting on the remarkable TED Talk in 2009 by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie called “The Danger of a Single Story” in which she stated the negative impact of the ‘single story’. It is particular, it is distinct and solitary, and that is the global perception of Africa, in which an entire continent is painted with a single brush stroke, a dark continent, a place of violence and poverty.

The above position, curiously is a thorny and debatable issue among scholars, who for decades have not been able to come to a conclusion. Whilst it is not the subject matter, it is a curious point to observe, however one way in which the ‘single story’ of Africa may be altered is by allowing international media agencies to conduct coverage, investigations, research and reports on Africa whether in print or electronic form. It goes without saying that press freedom is very important in any democracy, and it is one way in which a nation is sensitized on issues of commerce, inventive steps, social – economic matters.

Press freedom in Zimbabwe, is not an unlimited right. The learned G Feltoe in A Guide to Media Law in Zimbabwe at page 38 states that, ‘the rights of freedom of speech and media freedom are not absolute and unqualified rights. The print and electronic media are powerful agencies that have the capacity to disseminate information on a widespread basis.’

Due to the extrinsic nature of the print and electronic media, governments generally have put in place tight measures especially with regards to foreign journalists. In Zimbabwe the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act [Chapter 10:27], is the governing legislation with regards to accreditation of foreign journalists. The Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Amendment Act repealed and replaced various sections of the principal Act, most notably section 79, which states that, ‘a person who is not a citizen or permanent resident of Zimbabwe may be accredited for any period specified by the Commission.’

The Zimbabwe Media Commission (herein the Commission) is in body corporate established in Zimbabwe for the purpose of registration and deregistration of media services, accrediting journalists and disciplining journalists among other functions. It is useful to note that the provision that gave the Minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services regulatory power, in the principal Act was amended and the word “Minister” substituted with the word “Commission” in the Amendment Act of 2007.

It is thus advisable that international media agencies make individual or block accreditation applications for journalists on assignments, which under the Immigration Act [Chapter 4:02] fall under the Specialized Areas. Such applications must be formal, placed on letterhead, accompanied by two passport sized photographs and duly completed accreditation forms to the Commission, which include the name(s) of the journalist(s), passport number(s), designation(s), nature of assignment(s), copy of journalist(s) card, specific coverage dates in Zimbabwe together with the prescribed fee.

The Commission may accredit, deny or revoke any person(s) accreditation. In the event that the Commission accredits a journalist, it will issue the journalist with an Accreditation Card before their arrival in Zimbabwe, which accreditation card should be kept safe and presented to the Immigration officials at any of the ports of entry, such as the Harare International Airport. This lessens the inconveniences, as journalists have been denied accreditation based on the fact that they arrived in the country prior to their accreditation.

Again, in order to avoid further inconveniences if foreign journalists intend to use whilst in Zimbabwe any broadcasting equipment, it is essential that the journalists complete the necessary clearance forms with the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (herein referred to as ZIMRA) and deposit with ZIMRA the equipment information to be at the port of entry, in order for their equipment to be cleared to temporary import into the country.

Perhaps the most important piece of law that foreign journalists are expected to comply with in Zimbabwe is the Public Order and Security Act [Chapter 11:17]. It is imperative that foreign journalists take great care not to publish dishonest and or malicious information which will incite or promote public disorder, endanger public safety, adversely affect the economic interests of Zimbabwe or adversely affect the defence of the nation or undermine the public confidence in law enforcement.

Section 16 of the Public Order and Security Act states that any person who publicly and intentionally, makes any abusive, indecent, obscene or false statement, “statement” being inclusive of any act or gesture which may be an act or gesture in respect the President, Acting President or the office of the President, and realising that there is a possibility or risk of ridicule, contempt or causing hatred and engendering feelings of hostility toward the President or an Acting President or in respect of his office shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine or imprisonment or both.

Disclaimer: While care has been taken to ensure that this publication is accurate, Kanokanga & Partners accepts no liability for any prejudice, loss or, damage of whatsoever nature which may arise from reliance on any of the information published herein. The contents of this publication are for general information purposes only. The purpose of this publication does NOT constitute our legal or professional advice. Readers are advised not to act on the basis of the information contained herein alone. Every situation depends on its own facts and circumstances.

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