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Repressive laws
Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ)
Extracted from Weekly Media Update 2004-49
Monday December 6th – Sunday December 12th 2004

ON the same day that the democratic world was commemorating International Human Rights Day on December 10, Zimbabweans woke up to the news that ZANU PF had once again used its majority in Parliament to force through more repressive laws.

The Daily Mirror (10/12) reported that among the legislation that had "sailed through" the House were the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Bill, the NGO Bill and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Bill, all of which were previously found to contain several unconstitutional provisions by the Parliamentary Legal Committee.

Although The Herald (10/12) and ZTV (10/12, 8pm) reported this development they only announced the passage of the NGO and ZEC Bills and ignored the progress of other legislation.

Equally disturbing was their failure to clearly explain the patently undemocratic nature of the new laws, which further erode Zimbabweans’ constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.

Instead, they ironically presented the ZEC Bill as an indication of government’s commitment to align its electoral laws with the SADC guidelines on the holding of democratic elections.

This stance was hardly surprising because it echoed the sentiments of government officials. For instance, in his State of the Nation address, which the government-controlled broadcaster covered live (9/12), President Mugabe stated that he was "happy" that laws such as the ZEC Bill "have made us more than compliant with the standards and guidelines we developed, agreed to, and adopted, as SADC".

The private media, however, disputed these claims, noting that the new pieces of legislation, together with several existing oppressive laws, would further shrink democratic space in Zimbabwe, thereby quashing any prospects of a free and fair election next year.

The Daily Mirror (10/12), for example, quoted members of the civic society condemning the new laws, particularly the NGO Bill which they described as yet another piece of legislation that would further curtail citizens’ basic rights.

Other independent commentators expressed similar views on Studio 7 (10/12).

Earlier, the station (9/12) reported that the International Council of Advocates and Barristers’ report on the state of the justice system in Zimbabwe had revealed that the country’s judiciary "has become profoundly compromised over the past four years" and had thus "ceased to be independent and impartial".

It was against such background that The Standard (12/12) contended that while the world was commemorating International Human Rights Day, there was "no cause for celebrating" the day in Zimbabwe.

The paper cited a Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum report, which revealed that 51 abductions, 288 assaults and three extra-judicial executions were recorded between January and August this year to demonstrate the extent to which the country’s human rights record had deteriorated.

Instead of reporting on the Forum’s findings, The Sunday Mail (12/12) simply attempted to discredit them out-of-hand by using unnamed "observers" to cynically dismiss the report as a "complete joke fit only for the dustbin" because the human rights organisation had "interviewed itself for its imperialistic and dirty ends".

Without giving details on the contents of the report, the paper then used the Forum’s acknowledgment of the problems it faced in verifying some of the data to further insult the organisation’s findings as "laughable".

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