By Staff Reporter
LOCAL rights and media based groups have urged the scrapping of legal provisions which criminalise the insulting of the President.
At a joint media briefing on Tuesday, Human Rights Watch, Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum and Media Centre also called on government to create an independent body to impartially investigate police abuses against journalists.
“The government should amend or repeal laws that infringe on the right to freedom of expression and media freedom, including the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), used to license and regulate the media; the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, used to criminalise media work and citizens’ right to free expression, expression, including prohibitions on insulting the president; and the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA), which hinders free establishment of broadcasting stations,” said the groups.
The calls by the NGOs follow the arrest and detention earlier this month of 25-year-old Martha O’Donovan, an American citizen who is being charged over a tweet the State equaled to alleged “subversion” against President Robert Mugabe’s government.
O’Donovan is employed by Magamba Network.
Her arrest followed similar arrests and harassment of up to 23 local journalists over different alleged offences last year.
Government recently introduced the controversial Cyber Security Ministry which the three groups feel was unnecessary as government should instead be promoting freedom of expression.
“Instead of media repression and muzzling cyberspace, the new Cyber Security Ministry should facilitate the enjoyment of free expression, right to access to information, and other media freedoms,” said Enerst Mudzengi, Media centre executive director.
“Journalists should conduct reporting or dare to express critical views should not be punished for performing this sacred public duty.”