Proposed reform of the censorship board

The Nhimbe Trust, an advocate for a vibrant and sustainable Zimbabwean creative sector that is sufficiently regulated and well-resourced, conditionally and cautiously welcomes the announcement by the government of the long overdue reform of the National Arts Council and the Censorship Board, as well as the privatisation of the National Handicraft Centre, in the name of cutting expenditure and enhancing operational expenditure.

Image of the Via Crucis (AFP or licensors)

Nhimbe Trust notes that the government wishes to absorb the Censorship Board and the
National Arts Council into their parent ministry as well as privatise the National Handicraft
Centre. It warns against this being done merely a step closer to shutting down, as
superfluous, the three entities in the name of cost cutting as that would demonstrate, on the
part of the government, a disconcerting disregard for, and a lack of appreciation of, the
crucial role of social and economic revival that the creative industries play. It is also alarmed
by the risk of this reform degenerating into increased government control and censorship of
the creative industries.

Nhimbe Trust has consistently been a proponent of long overdue reforms of the Censorship
Board and National Arts Council. What we hope to see is the government seizing the
opportunity presented by the parastatals reform agenda to finally align the cultural
governance regulatory framework to the expansive framework of freedom of artistic
expression and creativity guaranteed by Section 61 of the Constitution and the 2005 UNESCO
Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, of
which Zimbabwe is a signatory.

In its submissions to the United Nations Human Rights Commission Universal Periodic
Review (UPR) of 2016 on Zimbabwe’s compliance with international human rights
instruments on freedom of expression, creativity and the arts, which included views of
artists, Nhimbe Trust decried how ‘any song, play or writing dealing with social issues has the
possibility of being linked to government actions and as result faces reprisals in the form of
censorship. The risk of this can only increase once the Censorship Board is absorbed by
government.

Similarly, in its Position Paper on the need to reform the National Arts Council Act Chapter
25:07, Nhimbe Trust lamented the detrimental effect of misapplication of the Act and its
obsolescence relative to the new constitutional dispensation of 2013.

Consequently therefore, Nhimbe Trust will support the proposed arts parastatal reforms on
condition that:

1. The Censorship and Entertainments Control Act be repealed and replaced with a regime
of classification for the protection of children using age restrictions.
2. The National Arts Council Act be amended to provide a strong arts sector governance
framework that is pro freedom of artistic expression and proactive in arts promotion and
development through provision of grants as is the international best practice of arts
councils.
3. Amendment of both Acts to lessen undue ministerial control and censorship of artists and
their work.
4. Creative civil society is consulted widely about these reforms in terms of Section 141 of
the Constitution.
5. Privatisation of the National Handicrafts Centre be conducted in an open and transparent
manner that avoids corruption.
Any disregard of these conditions will strangle the artists, cultural workers, cultural and
creative industries instead of fully promoting them as required by the national Constitution
and 2005 UNESCO Convention.

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