Mugabe bill to stifle access to official information
Harare – The Zimbabwean government is planning to block public access to state information like court judgments, legislation, official notices and public registers, a press freedom watchdog warned Monday.
The proposed legislation, drafted by President Robert Mugabe’s wing of the country’s coalition government, would worsen an already heavily restricted media environment, the Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ) warned.
Clauses in the General Laws Amendment Bill published last month are a blatant attempt to gag the media from reporting on important government actions that are currently free from restriction, the MMPZ said in a bulletin.
The MMPZ said the bill would enforce copyright on all government documents, which could be published only with government approval.
If a human rights organization wanted to publish details of a court ruling that affected the rights of citizens, it would have to get permission from the justice minister, the project warned.
Details of new electoral laws could also only be published by the media with state approval and official registers, like voters rolls, could also be made secret.
Significant reforms were made to media laws in Zimbabwe last year, resulting in the launch of the country’s first independent daily newspaper in eight years, but journalists still suffer regular harassment.
Last week Mugabe’s chief media official said no new radio or television stations would be given licences to operate, in violation of an undertaking in the power-sharing agreement signed by Mugabe and pro-democracy Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in September 2008.