The Clerk of Parliament, Mr Kennedy Chokuda, has dismissed the requirement that journalists who cover the Legislature must first be cleared by the police for them to be accredited to cover Parliament.
Parliament’s public relations department yesterday sent e-mails to journalists with requirements for covering Parliament that included fingerprint clearance by the Zimbabwe Republic Police.
This torched a storm within the media fraternity with journalists taking a swipe at Parliament.
The requirements for accreditation that were sent yesterday include: a copy of identification, two driver’s licence size photos, a copy of Zimbabwe Media Commission accreditation card, fingerprint forms cleared by Zimbabwe Republic Police and a supporting letter from the journalist’s media house.
The fingerprints clearance requirement shocked the media industry thereby creating a buzz on social media where journalists took turns to condemn the requirements.
Sources said the fingerprints requirement was smuggled in without consultation with Parliament administration.
Mr Chokuda confirmed that Parliament’s administration had not approved the “stringent conditions”.
“Nothing has changed. There is no such requirement. We can’t be seen to be making requirements that are more stringent than what the Zimbabwe Media Commission requires,” said Mr Chokuda.
In a statement, the Media Institute of Southern Africa had already castigated Parliament for actions that it said undermined the powers of the ZMC.
“MISA-Zimbabwe expresses its shock and dismay in the wake of the new stringent accreditation requirements imposed on journalists covering the Parliament of Zimbabwe over and above the statutory licensing of journalists by the Zimbabwe Media Commission.
“These requirements are not only unnecessarily bureaucratic and cumbersome, but undermine the powers of the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC), the constitutional body which is empowered with issuing of accreditation cards to journalists.
“The ZMC accreditation card is issued to facilitate the entry and coverage by journalists of public institutions and events including the Parliament of Zimbabwe,” read the statement.
MISA-Zimbabwe said by making new accreditation demands, Parliament was usurping the powers of ZMC.
It argued that the new stringent requirements sought to limit access to information.
“By subjecting journalists duly accredited by the ZMC to further vetting, Parliament runs the risk of usurping the powers of a constitutional body that could set precedence for other arms of the State to impose similar requirements on journalists.
“Parliament should take the lead in defending and promoting unhindered access to information by the media as provided for in terms of the constitutional provisions on media freedom and the right to access to information,” read the statement.