Today (Tuesday 22 August 2023), High Court of Zimbabwe Judge Justice Tawanda Chitapi referred to the ordinary court roll the urgent chamber application in which the Young Journalists Association of Zimbabwe (YOJA) was seeking an order compelling the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to publish vital statistics on the accreditation of local and international journalists in the current electoral cycle.
The same application sought another directive for ZEC to constitute the Media Complaints Committee in terms of the Electoral Act within 24 hours of the court’s order.
The application cites ZEC as the first respondent, while its Chairperson and Chief Elections Officer are the second and third respondents, respectively.
According to lawyer Chris Mhike, representing the applicants (YOJA), Justice Chitapi ruled earlier today after considering that the parties had commenced unfinished negotiations to reach a settlement.
Commenting on the outcome of the application, Mhike said: “We are obviously disappointed that the matter could not be finalised before this year’s polling date (23 August 2023).
“Be that as it may, we are encouraged by the fact that the important access to information and media freedom issues are still within the realm of amicable resolution. Should negotiations for a cordial settlement fail, the court shall still be seized with the matter.”
In its application, YOJA said if the Committee is already constituted, respondents shall furnish the applicants with the following among others:
- Information relating to when and where the Committee was constituted, identities of members of the Committee and entities they represent.
- Number of applications received for the accreditation of local and international journalists for the 2023 Zimbabwean general elections.
- Statistics on the number of applications that succeeded and those that were declined, categorised into local, and foreign journalists.
In its application, YOJA said ZEC had generally failed to put in place important measures and mechanisms relating to media coverage during elections, such as the Media Monitoring Committee.
“The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s (ZEC) tardiness in accrediting local and foreign journalists for the forthcoming elections is the most glaring case in point,” reads part of the application.