Freedom of expression, a fundamental right

The Mugabe regime has, over the past 32 years enacted harsh, colonial style laws which infringe on Zimbabweans' fundamental freedoms including the freedom of expression.

Section 33(2) a (ii) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9.23 stipulates that it is a Criminal offence to insult or mock the President. The law, which has been used to incarcerate a number of people, is ambiguous in that it does not define clearly what constitutes an insult or mockery of the President.

Recently in Mutare, a man got arrested for questioning the ability of President Robert Mugabe to blow balloons for his 88th birthday celebrations. Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) lawyer, Kennedy Masiye speaking to The Crisis Report argued that this notorious law infringes the right to freedom of expression for all citizens and stated that, "public figures should be subject to all forms of criticism in a democracy €.

The Zimbabwean law has become a channel through which dictatorship is perpetuated and should be reformed ahead of any electoral process. President Mugabe remains immune to judicial action yet he has, on countless occasions hailed insults at members of the pro- democracy movement during his rallies while law enforcers continuously turn a blind eye. President Mugabe should allow citizens to freely express themselves and to criticize him and other public officials. He should be open to public scrutiny instead of arresting every Zimbabwean who speaks negatively of him.

Moreover, Parliament, which began sitting in February 2012, should amend the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) which also restricts the right of citizens to express themselves. The law empowers police to arrest any gathering of two or more people without a clearance and it continues to be used by the ZANU PF controlled police force to disrupt any meetings convened by civil society organizations and non-ZANU-PF supporters.  Last year Parliament's time was wasted debating a bill to amend POSA for months in the House of Assembly until it reached the Senate raising people's hopes of change in the notorious law, only to declare it "smuggled € and "unprocedural €. Such is insult to public intelligence and makes POSA an anathema to human rights, democracy, and freedom of expression.

Civil society organizations have declared 2012 a year for critical reforms which should create a conducive environment for the holding of free and fair elections in the country. The much anticipated Constitution should guarantee the freedom of and after expression. Laws which hinder the free expression of views by citizens are a negation of fundamental freedoms and an eye sore in the country's political landscape.

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