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effects of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA)
Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ)
Weekly Media Update 2005-31
Monday August 15th – Sunday August 21st 2005
THIS week SW
Radio Africa (19/8) and The Standard (21/8) exposed the repressive
effects of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) on freedom of
expression when they reported the "first conviction"
of a journalist charged under the draconian security and media law.
reported that the editor of the Gweru-based Sun newspaper,
Willie Muponda, had been convicted of violating POSA by publishing
a false story that claimed a Gweru woman had committed suicide following
the demolition of her phone shops during Operation Murambatsvina.
Court found Muponda guilty of "publishing falsehoods"
and fined him $100 000 (or three months’ jail).
published a retraction when he discovered the story was false, as
is the universally accepted practice in such cases, the State used
the apology as more evidence against him instead of considering
it as mitigation.
Apart from the
fine, the effect of this law has been to brand Muponda a common
criminal, which carries all manner of social disadvantages and prejudice.
Such punishment is entirely disproportionate to the offence, which,
in most democracies does not carry any criminal penalty. The
Standard reported Muponda’s intention to appeal against the
conviction, although it also reported the journalist saying he would
have to find the funds to do so, further demonstrating that the
pursuit of justice comes at a price small publishers can ill afford.
The end result is that journalists and media houses will avoid stories
that incur any risk of expensive litigation, thus further undermining
Zimbabweans’ right to freedom of expression.
Independent’s claims that the Central Intelligence Organisation
(CIO) had infiltrated The Financial Gazette and the Mirror
group of newspapers by acquiring controlling ownership of them,
also attracted attention during the week.
failed to provide conclusive evidence to back up its allegations
in its initial story (12/8), the Independent (19/8) followed
up its claims with a speculative story that begged for adequate
headlined Mediagate deepens; the story was mainly based on
reactions to the paper’s first report and the alleged behind-the-scenes
power struggles at the Mirror stable, rather than on substantiated
Editor, Sunsleey Chamunorwa, did little to dispel the allegations
either. His florid response (18/8) to the Independent’s inadequately
researched story turned out to be an evasive and emotional piece
that lacked any clear information about the ownership of his paper.
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