Last Updated: Friday, 25 July 2014, 12:52 GMT

Zimbabwe: Excessive restraint on right to access pluralistic media & information

Publisher Article 19
Publication Date 14 February 2012
Cite as Article 19, Zimbabwe: Excessive restraint on right to access pluralistic media & information, 14 February 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4f4b6dd67e.html [accessed 26 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

ARTICLE 19 is concerned about the directive by the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) to ban the distribution of unregistered foreign newspapers within Zimbabwe. An online report published on 3rd February 2012 by the Africa Review reports that the directive has sparked fears of a renewed crackdown on private media in the southern African country. The ZMC chairman, Godfrey Majonga,is reported to have said that foreign papers were operating outside the law and were not paying statutory fees. Newspapers are required to register as per the terms of the controversial Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA).

"It is not justifiable for the Zimbabwe media Commission to call for a total ban on the rights of foreigners  to express themselves. Freedom of expression belongs to every person and it applies regardless of frontiers ," said Henry Maina, Director ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa. 

According to online reports, the ban appears to target a weekly newspaper published by Zimbabwean journalists exiled in the UK, as well as South African newspapers that have launched popular Zimbabwean editions.

"A total ban as a sanction for non-registration is excessively harsh. Being the most extreme sanction, it should not be applied unless there have been repeated and gross violation of the law as determined by a court. The sanctions regime for non-registration should be strictly proportionate to the nature of the breach," continued Maina.

International standards have been developed to protect media workers in the free practice of their profession without undue interference. In effect, these standards are there to ensure that authorities do not muzzle the voice of the media or push aside the right to freedom of expression too easily.

Sanctions such as the  suspension and termination of  media outlets are determined to be too extreme  under international standards. The call made by the ZMC undermines the right of Zimbabweans to access  pluralistic information and ideas through the media.

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