The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) are calling on Zimbabwe’s power-sharing government to repeal the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) after a late 2010 amendment to the legislation hiked mandatory registration and accreditation fees for the press working in the country by as much as 400%. The AIPPA requires news organisations and journalists operating in Zimbabwe to annually register with the government and pay accreditation fees under penalty of prosecution and custody. Following the September 2008 power-sharing Global Political Agreement between the ruling ZANU-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, in April 2010, the Zimbabwe Media Commission lowered the fees, which once peaked at a total of US$30,000 in 2009 for foreign news outlets. The new amendments, published by the Zimbabwe government on 31 December 2010, and effective 1 January 2011, appeared to target international news media outlets operating in Zimbabwe and their local correspondents. Under the new fee structure obtained by CPJ, an international news outlet must pay US$6,000 for permission to operate a bureau in Zimbabwe (triple the old rate of US$2,000) in addition to a US$1,000 application fee for such permission (double the old rate of US$500). Renewal of this permission went from being free to US$5,000. Zimbabwean journalists working for foreign media are required to pay US$100 to apply for accreditation (five times the old rate of US$20) while the accreditation fee quadrupled from US$100 to US$400. The fee for renewal of accreditation went from being free to US$300. Fees for regional southern African news organisations doubled, while increases remained modest for local journalists and news outlets. Authorities have imposed a US$1 fine for each day of delay starting Monday, 17 January 2011, according to local journalists. AIPAA, also gives officials sweeping discretion to withhold public information they deem not to be of “public interest,” according to a study by the Media Institute of Southern Africa. The government has failed so far to deliver on a March 2010 promise by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to repeal AIPPA and amend contentious media and security legislation by the end of 2011.
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