AUGUST 12, 2005
Updated: December 1, 2005

Kelvin Jakachira, Daily News

Jakachira, accused of working without accreditation for the banned Daily News, went on trial in a Harare court, according to his lawyer and the Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA). Jakachira faced up to two years in prison in what was seen as a test case for other former Daily News journalists.

Jakachira was accused of working for the banned paper between January and September 2003 without the government license required by the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA). The Daily News, Zimbabwe’s only independent daily, was forced to close in September 2003 after the Supreme Court ruled that it was operating illegally under AIPPA.

Jakachira’s lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, told CPJ the defense presented evidence that her client had applied for a license from the government-controlled Media and Information Commission (MIC), but received no reply—meaning that he was not operating illegally under AIPPA. MIC chairman Mahoso Tafataona argued that his agency could not accredit Jakachira to work for the Daily News because it was a banned publication, she said.

On August 31, the court acquitted Jakachira of working without accreditation, in what local observers called an important precedent for other former Daily News journalists, many of whom face similar charges. Magistrate Prisca Chigumba ruled that Jakachira had applied for accreditation in accordance with AIPPA, but had received no response from the government. Chigumba ruled that the journalist was entitled to work while awaiting the outcome of his application.

AIPPA makes it a criminal offense for media outlets and individual journalists to work without accreditation from the MIC. The charge of working without a license carries a prison sentence of up to two years, but no journalist has yet been convicted under the repressive law. Since AIPPA became law in 2002, the government of President Robert Mugabe has used it to detain and harass dozens of critical journalists, and to shut down four newspapers, including the Daily News and the Daily News on Sunday.