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Another repressive law
Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ)
Weekly Media Update 2005-23
Monday June 20th – Sunday June 26th 2005

THE media’s disturbing dereliction of duty has made itself evident again after their failure to inform the public of the enactment of yet another repressive law, the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.

The law was gazetted on June 3rd, but surprisingly none of the media has reported on this piece of legislation, which tightens the gag on the public’s voice, among other provisions that further erode the country’s democratic space.

For instance, Clause 31 of the Act imposes a fine of $5 million or a jail sentence of up to 20 years or both for anyone who "who publishes or communicates false statements" that are perceived to be "prejudicial to the State".

Clause 33 of the Act also imposes stiffer penalties for anyone convicted of "publicly" making or publishing a statement (including any act or gesture) that is deemed as "undermining the authority of or insulting" the presidency.

These two alarmingly vague and sweeping clauses introduce truly draconian penalties for similar offences already contained in the repressive Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and Access to Information and Privacy Act (AIPPA).

For instance, under POSA communicating a false statement perceived to be a threat to the State’s interests attracts a fine of $100 000 or a five-year jail term or both, while AIPPA’s penalty for "publishing or communicating falsehoods", which is also punishable under Section 31 (b) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, is a fine of $400 000 or a maximum of two years in jail.

Notably, none of the media informed the public of this latest assault by the authorities on the citizenry’s right to freedom of expression.

However, The Daily Mirror (23/6) did expose how such repressive laws have been used to deny citizens their right to access media of their choice when it reported that the government-appointed Media and Information Commission (MIC) had "reserved judgment" on the application by the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe - publishers of The Daily News and The Daily News on Sunday – for an operating licence and the re-licensing of The Tribune.

The papers were closed for violating sections of AIPPA.

While the MIC continues to delay making a determination on these important public issues, Zimbabweans who have been subjected to incessant propaganda from the government controlled media, remain starved of diverse alternative sources of information.

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