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Zimbabwe Media Activists Hoping For Improved Press Environment

In a unusual move, civic organizations challenging Zimbabwean media laws they say are repressive have agreed to a request from Harare to defer until 2007 a discussion in the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights of one such law.

Discussion of the controversial Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, or AIPPA, had been set for the commission’s current session in Banjul, the Gambia, but was postponed at the request of the Zimbabwean government with the consent of critics including the Media Institute of Southern Africa, the Independent Journalists Association of Zimbabwe, and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.

Legal officer Wilbert Mandinde of the Zimbabwe chapter of the Media Institute told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyele of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Harare's request for a postponement received the approval of its opponents because the groups saw the possibility of obtaining concessions from Harare on media in the meantime.

One of these is the establishment of an independent media council that could assume some of the functions of government institutions charged with media oversight.

Acting director Irene Petras of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said that in agreeing to the postponement, her group is hoping to see the media council set up by some time next month, but will insist on a tight timetable for its establishment.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...