In a statement to the recently concluded 49th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Media Institute of Southern Africa, MISA said the enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression in the region remains under serious threats.
This, it added is due to repressive legal regimes using “due process” as a tool for justifying the persecution of journalists and citizens.
The Legal Officer for MISA in Zimbabwe Jacqueline Chikakano in a presentation on “freedom of expression in Southern Africa” on May 8, 2011, said the lack of political will to put in place effective measures to enhance the protection and enjoyment of this rights, is a common problem in Swaziland, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
“In Swaziland, the right to free expression is increasingly under threat. On March 25, 2011, Prime Minister Sibusiso Dlamini told Senators that his Government will track down, arrest and prosecute people who have been expressing themselves on the social network website facebook, as they are deemed critical of government,” she said.
“Mr. Gandadza Masilela was one person set to be prosecuted for freely exercising his right to free expression on facebook. On April 7, 2011, the Prime Minister banned protest marches planned in Swaziland’s major cities, further hampering the citizen’s rights to express themselves.”
In Tanzania, she notes that threats to media freedom and harassments of journalist continue unabated. In November 2010, two Newspapers, Muanandi and Muanahalisi received warning letters from the Department of Information Service ordering them to stop publishing information the authorities deemed to be inciting.
“In January 2011, Munnir Zakaria, a journalist working with Zanzibar’s Channel 10 Television Station was attacked and seriously beaten up by a group of Zanzibar’s Municipal Policemen.
Restrictive laws such as the Public Service Act, the National Security Act and the Newspapers Act, continue to severely hamper media freedom, access to information and freedom of expression.”
She said in Zimbabwe, there are no legislative reforms and the repressive legislative framework remains intact, severely hampering the right to free expression and media freedom through laws such the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
According to her, criminal defamation charges or threats enshrined in laws such as the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act are instilling self-censorship in citizens and journalist alike. With the arrest and detention of Golden Maunganidze of the Masvingo Mirror on allegation of criminal defamation in February 2011, is an example.
“We call upon the Commission to urge these governments to establish independent media regulatory boards and self regulatory mechanisms that will engender free and ethical media activity as well as enhance access to information through multiple sources of information,” she said. Source – The Voice