Four journalists who were barred from covering the COMESA summit at the
weekend have decided to sue Information Minister Webster Shamu and his
permanent secretary George Charamba, for contempt of court, reports Lance Gama for SW Radio Africa.
This follows FridayÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s ruling by High Court Judge Bharat Patel that the Media and Information Commission (MIC), led by Tafataona Mahoso, was now a defunct body and no journalist should be required to register with it.
But as journalists Stanley Gama, Valentine Maponga, Stanley Kwenda and Jealous Mawarire found out on Sunday, High Court orders are just pieces of paper in ZimbabweÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s law of the jungle. Security agents at the summit ignored the court order being waved in front of them and turned the journalists away. They insisted the group were not on the Ministry of InformationÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s list of journalists accredited to cover the summit.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai announced last month that journalists were now free to report on Zimbabwe without government approval since the MIC had been legally disbanded in 2008. He was promptly contradicted by Information Minister Shamu who warned of arrest for those without accreditation. Meanwhile the MIC was meant to be replaced by the Zimbabwe Media Commission, but this still has not been constituted. Justice PatelÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s ruling last week merely confirmed TsvangiraiÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s initial interpretation of the commissionÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s illegal status
On Wednesday Newsreel spoke to Stanley Gama and he told us Harare lawyer Selby Hwacha is handling the application. Justice Patel had specifically barred the Information Ministry from interfering in the work of the journalists, and he said the lawyer will argue that production of a list of accredited journalists at the summit amounted to interference. Although there is little chance of government respecting any ruling from the courts that they donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t like, Gama said they are determined to expose the illegality of the ministryÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s actions. Government lawyers meanwhile insist they are going to appeal Justice PatelÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s ruling on the status of the MIC.
Click here to read the full report, posted on SW Radio Africa's website.