Back to Index
Taking Photographs - Peace Watch 5/2010
April 21, 2010
can be a high-risk occupation in Zimbabwe for journalists [and sometimes
for other people, including tourists]. Last month a freelance photojournalist
was arrested outside Harare magistrates court for taking photographs
of arriving prisoners without the permission of the Commissioner
of Prisons, and, although this is not against the law, he was detained,
questioned by the police and charged with disorderly conduct. This
raises the question: “In what circumstances can journalists
and other people take photographs in Zimbabwe?”
rule is that everyone is free to take photographs of anything and
anyone they like, except where the law specifically forbids photographs
to be taken. This is one aspect of freedom of expression, which
is protected by the Constitution and which includes freedom to receive
and impart ideas and information. This freedom as spelt out in the
Declaration of Rights [section 20] can only be limited in certain
circumstances, by a law passed in order to protect:
- the interests
of defence, public safety, public order, the economic interests
of the State, public morality or public health; or
- the reputations,
rights and freedoms of other people, or the private lives of people
concerned in legal proceedings; or
- the authority
and independence of courts or tribunals or Parliament.
And any such
law must be “reasonably justifiable in a democratic society”.
There are several laws that prohibit or restrict the taking of photographs
in Zimbabwe. By listing them here we are not implying that they
comply with section 20 of the Constitution – even some of
the following provisions could be open to a constitutional challenge.
Prohibiting or Restricting Taking Photographs
Under section 94 of the Defence Act, the Minister of Defence has
the power to declare any area to be a protected area and to give
directions banning the taking of photographs within the area [but
not of the area from outside it]. Although section 94 is couched
in extremely wide terms, it probably covers only defence installations.
Taking photographs in contravention of section 94 attracts a fine
of US $200 or six months’ imprisonment or both. Various areas
were declared to be protected before Independence, but none have
been since. The pre-Independence declarations have never been repealed.
Under section 25 of the Electoral Regulations, 2005, it is a criminal
offence to take a photograph of anyone inside a polling booth, or
to take a photograph within a polling-station without permission
from the officer in charge of the station. Anyone who contravenes
the section is liable to a fine of US $700 or a year’s imprisonment
or both. There is nothing wrong, however, with taking photographs
of the outside of polling stations.
Act: Under section 3 of the Official Secrets Act anyone who takes
a photograph which is calculated or intended to be, or which might
be, useful to an enemy of Zimbabwe is guilty of espionage and liable
to imprisonment for up to 25 years, if he or she takes the photograph
for a purpose prejudicial to Zimbabwe’s safety or interests.
Section 3 of the Act is couched in very broad terms and could afford
a pretext for the arrest of anyone who tried to photograph defence
installations and other places believed to be of strategic importance.
Regulations: Under section 168 of the Prisons (General) Regulations,
1996, it is an offence to take photographs inside a prison unless
the Commissioner of Prisons consents. A contravention of the section
attracts a year’s imprisonment. Taking photographs of the
outside of a prison, on the other hand, seems to be perfectly all
right, unless the photographer loiters when taking it, in which
event he or she may be arrested and charged with loitering within
100 metres of a prison and failing to move on when requested to
do so, in contravention of section 85 of the Prisons Act. If found
guilty of that crime, the photographer is liable to a fine of US
$100 or three months’ imprisonment or both.
and Areas Act: If premises are declared to be a protected place,
the declaration usually includes prohibitions or restrictions on
taking photographs on the premises [section 4(5) of the Act]. Anyone
who takes a photograph in contravention of such a provision risks
a fine of US $400 or two years’ imprisonment or both. Similarly,
if an area is declared to be a protected area the taking of photographs
within the area is usually prohibited [section 5 of the Act], and
anyone doing so is liable to the same penalty. Note that the Act
does not make it an offence to take photographs of a protected place
or area, merely within the place or area. The following places and
areas are listed in the Index to Legislation as being protected
under the Act: the Aurex Factory, Goromonzi; the Beitbridge border-post;
the “Chimanimani Restricted/Reserved Area” [presumably
the Marange diamond fields]; the Zimbabwe Defence Industries factories
in Domboshawa; Fidelity Printers and Refinery in Harare; an underground
fuel depot in Mabvuku; a fuel depot in Masasa; the National Heroes
Acre; the Presidential retirement home in Borrowdale, Harare; the
environs of State House, Harare; and the Wilton Pipe Station.
Situations Where Photography is Restricted
Taking photographs of the proceedings of the Senate or the House
of Assembly is considered to be contempt of Parliament unless permission
has been obtained from the President of the Senate or the Speaker.
Although not stated specifically in the Privileges, Immunities and
Powers of Parliament Act or in Parliamentary Standing Orders, it
is established practice of both Houses to prohibit visitors from
filming or taking photographs of their proceedings. The prohibition
does not extend to taking photographs outside the Parliament building.
Similarly, filming or taking photographs of court proceedings without
permission from the presiding judge or magistrate amounts to contempt
of court and is punishable as such. So far as is known, no court
in Zimbabwe has ever given permission for criminal or civil proceedings
to be filmed or photographed [apart from the ceremonial opening
of High Court sessions] and no court is likely to give such permission
in future. Again, there is no prohibition against photographing
the outside of court buildings.
Parties to criminal
and civil proceedings: If a court has prohibited disclosure of the
identity of a party or witness to criminal or civil proceedings,
then it would be unlawful, and punishable as contempt of court,
for a journalist to photograph the party or witness entering or
coming from the court in connection with the proceedings.
In all other
cases journalists and other people can generally take photographs
of what and of whom they choose. It is not necessary to get the
consent of a person before taking his or her photograph; if the
person objects to having the photograph published, he or she can
take civil proceedings to prevent publication but cannot normally
invoke the assistance of the police to prevent the photograph being
taken. The police can become involved only if taking the photograph:
impairs the dignity of the person concerned or seriously invades
his or her privacy, in which event it will amount to criminal
insult, which is punishable by a fine of US $300 or a year’s
imprisonment or both; or
- amounts to
intentionally engaging in disorderly or riotous conduct in a public
place, in which case it will amount to disorderly conduct in a
public place, a crime punishable by a fine of US $200 or six months’
imprisonment or both.
In some other
cases people can be prevented from taking photographs and the police
may be called on for assistance. For example, if a person enters
private land or premises in order to take a photograph, he or she
can be told to leave and, if he or she does not do so, will be guilty
of criminal trespass and liable to a fine of US $200 or six months’
imprisonment or both [section 132 of the Criminal Law Code]. The
police may be called upon to eject the person from the premises.
But in such a case the essence of the crime would be failing to
leave the premises rather than taking photographs. Much the same
applies if a person takes photographs of a meeting such as a company
meeting without permission from the person presiding: he or she
may be asked to leave and may be ejected if he or she refuses.
Law Enforcement or Police Harassment of a Photo Journalist
To return to
the story of the freelance photojournalist. On March 1st he was
apprehended and detained by prison officials at the Harare magistrates
court for taking photographs of prisoners without the permission
of the Commissioner of Prisons. He was later handed to the police
who detained and questioned him. There is no law in Zimbabwe that
prohibits filming outside courthouses, nor one that requires journalists
to seek permission from the Commissioner of Prisons before performing
their duties, so the police could not charge him for taking photographs.
They eventually charged him with disorderly conduct and he paid
the fine rather than spending the night in the cells, but his lawyer
is contesting that charge as spurious. [Note: the prisoners he photographed
were a group of alleged coup plotters being brought to court to
face charges of attempting to escape from Chikurubi Maximum Security
Prison and the photojournalist was pursuing his legitimate professional
job covering a case of public interest.]
On January 18
this year, the same photojournalist, Andrisson Manyere, was arrested
and detained by the police for two hours for filming a public protest
march in Harare by members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise [WOZA]. He
was released without charge. The following month a group of ZANU-PF
youths unlawfully apprehended and detained him for filming the youths’
public protest against sanctions on the ZANU-PF leadership. The
youths handed Manyere over to State security agents who, unlawfully,
forced him to delete all footage in his camera before they released
State security agents seized Manyere at his home in Norton on December
13, 2008. Without search warrants or any legal justification, they
raided his house and confiscated his work equipment, including a
camera and two laptops, which have never been returned to him. While
in police custody, Manyere was threatened with death and accused
of taking and sending images of victims of human rights abuses to
international media. Manyere was charged with banditry, sabotage
and terrorism, together with other abductees [see previous Peace
Watches] and kept in Chikurubi maximum security prison for months,
and was only finally released on bail on 13th May, 2009. His case
is pending before the courts. His lawyer has said he was tortured
and that during his incarceration his rights to legal representation,
a fair trial, and security of person were violated; he has brought
a civil case claiming damages against the State but a court date
has not been set.
is trying to earn a living following his profession and is having
to replace the equipment which has not been returned to him. His
constantly being arrested is making this difficult and is also causing
a lot of suffering to himself, his wife and children, who each time
he is arrested fear the worst.
on peoples’ constitutional rights and freedoms must be in
accordance with the law. A person should not be stopped from taking
a photograph unless there is a given law that prohibits him or her
from doing so. And the law must comply with section 20 of the Constitution.
The police’s duty is to uphold the law, not to act outside
the parameters of the law.
makes every effort to ensure reliable information, but cannot take
legal responsibility for information supplied
Please credit www.kubatana.net if you make use of material from this website.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.