The Zimbabwe High Court has freed journalist Gift Phiri after
discovering that he was being charged under a non-existent section of
the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), writes
Gugu Ziyaphapha.

Phiri, a reporter with the UK-based newspaper The Zimbabwean, was being charged for “publishing falsehoods” in terms of section 80(1)(b).

But magistrate Gloria Takundwa said the section was scrapped 4 years ago.

She said in her court ruling: "Remand is therefore refused on the basis that the State has charged the accused person with a repealed law. Accused was supposed to have been charged with section 80 of AIPPA's amendment."

AIPPA’s Section 80(1)(b) was repealed after various stakeholders objected to the constitutionality of arresting journalists for "publishing falsehoods”.

The amended Section 80 now reads: "Any published statement, which is intentionally, unreasonably, recklessly, maliciously or fraudulently false and either (1) Threatens the interest of defence, public safety, public order, the economic interests of the state, public morality or public health or, (2) Is injurious to the reputation, rights and freedoms of other persons will be punished."

The case against Phiri arose from a story published last year headlined "Go now – Generals tell Mugabe as Zanu PF loses support", and another headlined "ZRP denies torture charge", which dealt with allegations that police tortured labour union and opposition leaders during a demonstration.

The state said all the stories were false and that the journalist did not seek official comment from the army.