MISA statement to 51st Session of ACHPR

MISA-ZIMBABWE SUBMISSION ON THE STATE OF FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION IN ZIMBABWE DELIVERED ON THE OCCASION OF THE 51st ORDINARY SESSION OF THE AFRICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN AND PEOPLES’ RIGHTS.

Banjul, The Gambia, 19 April 2012

Presented Farai Nhende, Assistant Legal Officer MISA-ZIMBABWE Madam Chairperson, Hon. Commissioners, Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), a regional media and free expression advocacy organisation, wishes to register its pleasure in being granted opportunity to appraise the Commission, the regional and international community on the state of media freedom in southern Africa, with particular reference to Zimbabwe.

As MISA- Zimbabwe we commend the government for licensing two new national commercial radio stations, a development that has partially opened the airwaves in Zimbabwe. This is despite the reservations that may have been expressed pertaining to the licensing process itself.

While there has been a decline in the number of arrests and harassment of journalists pursuant to the consummation of the inclusive government which has given a semblance of media freedom, we hope this situation continues to obtain ahead of the pending constitutional referendum and elections.

However, we urge the government to speedily call for more players which will include the yet to be licensed community radio stations and private television broadcasters.

MISA-Zimbabwe remains concerned with the continued arrests and harassment of journalists through repressive legislation such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act among others.

The need to revisit, amend or repeal these laws, among others, as recommended by the Commission cannot be overemphasised.

For instance, during the period between November 2011 to date, 6 cases of media violations were reported. In four out of the six cases the charges preferred were under Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act, while in three of those four cases criminal defamation was the preferred charge.

The cases involve charges against Standard journalists Nqaba Matshazi and editor Nevanji Madanhire, The Daily News editor Stanley Gama and journalist Xolisani Ncube.

Suffice to say criminal defamation has become the weapon of choice against media freedom and freedom of expression. This is despite the spirited calls by the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information Madam Advocate Pansy Tlakula for the repeal all criminal defamation laws and provisions.

We therefore call upon the Commission to urge the Government of Zimbabwe to fully comply with the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and the Banjul Declaration.-+

Recommendations

We call upon the Commission to urge the Government of Zimbabwe to:

– license more independent players in the broadcasting field and transform ZBC into a true public service broadcaster

– institute fundamental media law reforms and comply with the Commission’s recommendations to amend some provisions of AIPPA

– ensure that there are explicit constitutional provisions that guarantee the right to freedom of information and press freedom

THANK YOU

MISA-Zimbabwe

84 McChlery Drive

Eastlea

Harare

Zimbabwe

Telefax: +263 4 776165/746838

Mobile : +263 712 602 448/ 0712 639 682

Email: [email protected]

Website: www.misazim.co.zw

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