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of reply to Herald article of 12 June 2013
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)
for Human Rights (ZLHR) has noted the front-page article in The
Herald edition of 12 June 2013 authored by Caesar Zvayi and entitled
“MDC-T launches litigation crusade”. This article was
published without adherence to basic journalistic standards and
ethics that include the right of reply or comment by those organisations
and individuals named in the story.
It is disappointing
that such articles continue to be published in a new constitutional
era that obliges institutions and individuals to promote national
unity, peace and stability, and specifically obliges the media to
refrain from incitement and hate speech, afford a right of reply,
and promote diverse and dissenting opinions.
have a constitutionally protected right to consult with lawyers
of their choice in order to exercise and protect their fundamental
rights and freedoms, moreso where they believe such rights are under
threat of violation. Clients must be able to do so in confidence,
which is why lawyer-client privilege is protected under our laws.
Publication of such communications is not only a breach of professional
legal ethics, but is also a grave breach of the law, for which offenders
can and must be prosecuted if law enforcement officers are not to
be seen to be condoning illegalities.
Whilst we stand
in defence of freedom of expression, freedom of the media and protection
of media practitioners to carry out their work without undue hindrance,
the breach of professional legal privilege is a crime that cannot
go unpunished, as it has the potential to undermine not only access
to effective legal remedies, but also the administration of justice
at its very core. Such prosecution is also critical in order to
stem the chilling effect such articles have on other potential litigants
who will be too fearful to consult lawyers in the future, in case
their legal issues are publicised in violation of such legal privilege.
Such fear and self-censorship leads to further violations of their
fundamental rights and freedoms.
It is not lost
on us that this article is a continuation of the sustained and unrelenting
attack against the legal profession in Zimbabwe.
of the court, lawyers are protected under national and international
laws, norms and standards to carry out their professional duties
without attack and without being identified with their clients or
their clients’ cause. Where they are consulted, it is indeed
their duty to provide professional legal services, and they do not
intentionally file “frivolous and vexatious” cases.
Lawyers are a vital bridge between the people, the law, and the
courts that are meant to protect them and ensure their rights are
realised and protected. Any assault on lawyers is therefore an associated
assault on the law and on the judiciary.
What is more
dangerous in the article at hand is the blatant propagandistic attempt
to interfere in serious litigation that is pending before the courts,
and seeking to set the legal profession on a collision course with
the judiciary. We have the greatest respect for the courts of Zimbabwe
and remain certain that the bench will see through these facile
attempts at inciting such divisions.
the right of every Zimbabwean where they feel their rights have
been, or are likely to be, violated. Lawyers have a duty to provide
professional services to assist this process, starting with confidential
consultations with their clients to take instructions in a safe
environment where the legal privilege is protected. These rights
and protections must be respected, failing which lawyers will be
within their rights to take appropriate legal action, including
lodging of criminal complaints, to ensure such intimidation, harassment
and interference comes to an end and integrity is restored to our
profession and the administration of justice.
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