Licensing / Media Regulation, Press Freedom
Burundian Journalists’ Union v. Attorney General
Closed Contracts Expression
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In this case, a freelance journalist in Zimbabwe, Patrick Chitongo, was sentenced to one-year imprisonment for publishing an unregistered newspaper called The Southern Sun – an action that, according to magistrate Tafadzwa Mhlanga, constituted a violation of Section 72(1) the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (“AIPPA”).
Columbia Global Freedom of Expression could not identify official legal and government records on the case and information on the case was derived from secondary sources. Global FoE notes that media outlets may not provide complete information about this case. Additional information regarding legal matters will be updated as an official source becomes available.
Patrick Chitongo was jointly charged with Tafadzwa Mhlanga, Givemore Kadzwida, and Courage Bandera of collaborating to publish a newspaper that was not registered with the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC), with a view to selling it. Three issues of the unregistered newspaper, The Southern Mirror, were published. All of Chitongo’s co-defendants were acquitted on the grounds of being students not actually involved in the publication of the newspaper.
The State argued that the act of publication was in contravention of Section 72(1) of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (“AIPPA”), which states that “No person shall carry on or operate a mass media service without a valid registration certificate.”
Chitongo and his lawyers argued that the published newspaper was just a dummy, which was to be presented to the ZMC for the purpose of registration.
On 2 July 2015, Chitongo was granted $200 bail by magistrate Tafadzwa Mhlanga pending his appeal against both sentence and conviction. The magistrate ordered Chitongo to continued residing at his given address and to report to the police once per fortnight.
Magistrate Tafadzwa Mhlanga rendered the decision. He held that Chitongo did violate Section 72(1) of the AIPPA and sentenced him to one-year imprisonment. It was held that Chitongo would serve 8 months’ imprisonment with four months of the sentence suspended on the condition that he not commit a similar offence within the next five years.
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
This case, in which a Journalist is given the harsh sentence of one year in prison for publishing an unregistered newspaper, contracts expression. Zimbabwe is a country know for the suppression of freedom of speech under the current Mugabe-led Government and, in general, laws compelling journalists and publications to register with government agencies in order to practice or publish are disagreeable as they are indicative of the government trying to control media, which is violative of the fundamental human rights of citizens. They impose a chilling effect on freedom of the press and force journalists to comply in order to avoid possible legal sanctions.
Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.
Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.
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