On 12 February 2019, the Minister of Information, Publicity, and Broadcasting Services Monica Mutsvangwa announced that Cabinet had approved the repeal of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA).
In the same statement, she revealed that her ministry was working to replace AIPPA with a Data Protection law, a Freedom to Access Information law, and a law regulating the Zimbabwe Media Commission.
AIPPA is regarded as one of the repressive media laws in the country stifling the work of journalists since its enactment almost two decades ago on the 22nd of March 2002. The act amongst other issues seeks to regulate the right of access to information; the right to request correction of personal information; data protection; protection of personal privacy and regulation of mass media.
The enactment of the 2013 Constitution explicitly guarantees for the right to freedom of expression and freedom of the media under section 61 while section 62 guarantees access information.
Government two weeks ago on the 5th of July 2019 gazetted the Freedom of Information Bill [H.B. 6 of 2019], one of three official Bills meant to replace the much-criticised Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA).
When passed into law, the Freedom of Information Bill is meant to give effect to the access to information provisions enshrined in Sections 61 and 62 of the 2013 Zimbabwe Constitution. Section 3(a) of the Bill reflects this when it states that one object of the Bill is, “to give effect to the right to access information in accordance with the Constitution…”
Civil Society Organisations like the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zimbabwe has already raised a red flag on government describing the bill as regressive saying the Bill in its current state fails to give effect to either the letter or spirit of the right to access information found in Section 62 of the Constitution.
“The Bill is regressive when compared to the previous draft version of the Bill shared with and discussed by stakeholders during engagement meetings held by the Ministry of Information Media and Broadcasting Services in December 2018 and March 2019. In fact, it is a total departure from most of the positions agreed upon between the ministry and media stakeholders,” MISA said in a statement.
MISA and other like media organisations have since condemned the new bill likening it to the outgoing AIPPA.
Civil society and other access to information activists claim that few recommendations captured during the stakeholders’ consultative process were incorporated into the gazetted Bill.