Posted on April 17, 2008
Who are you calling a journalist?
Many people have commented on the actions of Mayhill Fowler, who went to a fund-raising dinner for Barack Obama and later wrote about remarks Obama made there. (Today Jeff Jarvis commented on Michael Tomasky commenting about Jay Rosen commenting on the matter.) Much of the fuss revolves around questions about who is a journalist, when is someone a journalist and when is she not, and whether national political figures should have an expectation of privacy at a small private dinner (snort).
I’d like to mention that in Zimbabwe, one week ago, a woman named Margaret Ann Kriel was reportedly arrested in Bulawayo (the second largest city in the country) “on allegations of practicing journalism without accreditation” (source: AllAfrica.com, April 15).
I would like us all to think about Kriel’s case whenever we are inclined to rail on about bloggers doing — or not doing — journalism.
Kriel was not formally charged, according to the report, but she had to pay bail (Z$100 million, or about US$3,300) and “surrender her travel documents.” To practice journalism without accreditation in Zimbabwe violates a national law known as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), amended in 2007.
The Zimbabwe court heard evidence that between Feb. 14 and April 10, Kriel and two other people “carried out interviews at various places in the city and surrounding areas” with two politicians (David Coltart of MDC-Mutambara and Thokozani Khupe of MDC-Tsvangirai) and with “members of the public.”
There’s a dangerous activity — one I would call journalism.
“The state will seek to prove that they carried out these activities pretending to be accredited journalists when they were not” (same source).
This is where journalist accreditation leads.
Naming who is a journalist — and who is not — is a dangerous, dangerous course to follow — and one I hope will never be pursued in my own country.