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  • Index of results, reports, press stmts and articles on March 31 2005 General Election - post Mar 30

  • Parliamentary elections and repressive media laws
    Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ)
    Extracted from Weekly Media Update 2005-12
    Tuesday April 5th - Sunday April 10th 2005

    THE just-ended parliamentary elections underscored the repressive legislative environment under which journalists are operating in the country. This followed the arrest of two British journalists and the deportation of a Swedish one, who were all accused of breaching sections of the draconian Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA).

    In its story on the arrest of the British based Sunday Telegraph journalists, Julian Simmonds and Toby Harnden, The Herald (1/6) reported that the two were arrested and charged with committing illegal journalism, a violation under AIPPA, for allegedly taking pictures of voters in Norton without accreditation. Secretary for Information and Publicity George Charamba was quoted using the incident as ammunition to reinforce government's attack on Britain saying the two's arrest showed "the utter disregard the British have of Zimbabwean laws". Added Charamba: "We did not accredit them. ... Their presence in the country is an act of defiance and an act of lawlessness. ... All that goes to show that the British media borrow its attitude and politics from the British government."

    In another related matter, The Herald and the Chronicle (2/4) reported that the authorities had deported a Swedish journalist, Fredrick Anders Sperling for violating AIPPA and the Immigration Act. According to the two government dailies, Sperling, who was accredited to cover the elections, had allegedly embarked on "another mission" to "stage-manage an incident" aimed at undermining "government's land reform and resettlement exercise". Reportedly, Sperling "teamed up" with a former Norton farmer, a Mr. Whaley and "stage-managed" interviews with former farm-workers at Kwayedza Farm.

    But it is not only journalists who have borne the brunt of the country's repressive laws. Scores of individuals, including members of the opposition have been arrested under the draconian Public Order and Security Act (POSA), which unreasonably restricts Zimbabweans' freedom of association and assembly. But it also contains sections curtailing freedom of expression, by - among other restrictions - creating the crime of denigrating the office of the President. And this week The Daily Mirror (8/4) reported that a Bulawayo woman, Vulisizwe Sibindi, who was arrested at Beitbridge border post on allegations of breaching POSA, had been released after the court threw out the State case against her. Sibindi, who had been in detention since March 25, was arrested after the police found her in possession of books they claimed "contained information denigrating President Mugabe".

    Similarly, The Herald (6/4) reported that an MDC supporter Artwell Murungweni appeared in court facing charges of denigrating President Mugabe after the announcement of the initial election results. Murungweni was also charged under POSA. Although the media exposed such cases, they passively reported them without viewing them as part of the authorities' use of patently undemocratic laws to unreasonably restrict and control free expression in Zimbabwe.

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