ZIMBABWE Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) yesterday said the seizure of communication gadgets such as radios by police is illegal as it breaches people’s right to freedom of expression and access to information.
REPORT BY MOSES MATENGA
In a statement, ZLHR said Section 20 (i) of the Constitution provides for every Zimbabwean to receive and impart information without any hindrance and the use of common technology such as radio, television or mobile phone is protected by law.
“The utterances by the police are patently illegal,” ZLHR said.
“This so-called ban has no basis in law.
“The lengths to which State institutions and actors are now going to deny fundamental rights and freedoms and act outside the law is alarming and typical of paranoid State authorities who are contemptuous of any diversity of opinion and information.”
The lawyers said what was more disturbing was that the police, mandated under Section 18(1) to uphold the Constitution, were the ones carrying out the raids.
Police on Monday announced a ban on “specially designed radios” that are “not compatible with State-owned stations”, claiming the devices would be used to communicate hate speech ahead of polls. They threatened to crack down on people found with the radios and organisations providing them.
Meanwhile, the two MDCs in the inclusive government have threatened to take up the issue of intimidation and harassment of civic society organisations by the police to the Southern African Development Community saying the issue was getting out of hand.
The MDCs view the police move as a Zanu PF strategy to silence critical voices perceived to be anti-Zanu PF ahead of elections expected in July.
“Zimbabwe is not a police State and should not be a police State,” Jameson Timba, MDC-T secretary for external affairs said yesterday.
“Civil society must be left to conduct their businesses freely. Any perceived harassment of civic society further damages the image of this country and it is in no one’s interest.”
MDC secretary-general Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga said: “This is clearly to intimidate people working in areas that concern elections.
“We are definitely going to engage the international community on the harassment of civic society if the onslaught persists.”