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Arrests of Studio 7 listeners an affront to democracy
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
November 30, 2010
with his own consent or by way of parental discipline, no person
shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of expression,
that is to say, freedom to hold and to receive and impart ideas
and information without interference with his correspondence'
Article 20 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe
The law, under
section 20 of the Constitution,
clearly states that citizens have the right to receive information.
The section is further compounded by Article 19 of the African
Charter on Human and People's Rights (1981) which states
that 'every individual shall have the right to receive information'
and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966)
Article 19 which says, 'Everyone shall have the right to freedom
of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive
and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers,
either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through
any other media of his choice.'
Mirro of 26 November-2 December 2010 reported cases of arrests of
Studio 7 listeners in Bikita in the Masvingo province. The report
alleges that the police are raiding homes and arresting anyone found
listening to the radio station. The right to access information
is fundamental and its deprivation is an affront to democracy and
a violation of the constitution and the ACHPR and ICCPR to which
Zimbabwe is a state party. By arresting listeners of the radio station,
the police are denying the people of Bikita their fundamental right
to access information as and when they need it limiting informed
citizen participation in national processes particularly as the
country moves towards possible elections in 2011. According to Saunders
(1999), without reliable and balanced information about what happens
in government and society, it is difficult if not impossible for
people to participate in the running of their country.
It is apparent
that Zimbabweans are yearning for unbiased and credible information
about their country and the world at large, something which the
current government is failing to fully provide. One arm of the government
and former ruling party ZANU PF, continues its strangle hold on
the public media which, instead of servicing ordinary citizens,
continues to churn out ZANU PF propaganda and denigrate any perceived
opponents of he political party. Despite commitments by the inclusive
government to sanitise the public media of its partisan mantra,
the public media remains highly politicised and devoid of balanced
and credible information.
licensing of private media houses has done little to ease the shortage
of information amongst the populace owing to the fact that the private
media is limited to print media as opposed to broadcast. Radio which
is part of the broadcast media is largely considered by scholars
as the 'medium for Africa' because of its wide reach.
The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Cooperation retains monopoly over the
broadcast media giving unrestrained powers to ZANU PF to gate keep
the information disseminated to the public. In addition, with the
increase in the harassment and arrests of journalists from the private
media, the government is further censoring the information provided
to citizens and dictating the pace of the media industry.
of accessible, balanced and credible information sources has led
to Zimbabweans seeking alternatives and listening to short-wave
radio stations. Instead of harassing and arresting citizens over
their desire to access information, the government should make efforts
to provide the much-needed credible information to allow citizens
an opportunity to make key decisions. Without the reformation of
the public media and licensing of private players in the broadcast
media industry, Zimbabweans will continue seeking alternative information
sources even at their own peril.
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