UN envoy slams ZMC censorship

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay yesterday said the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) was more concerned with controlling and censoring the media than promoting freedom of expression.

Addressing journalists at the end of her five-day visit to assess the human rights situation in the country, Pillay also condemned human rights violations, which she said were on the increase.

ZMC is a statutory body responsible for the licensing of newspapers and was set up by the inclusive government.

“The Zimbabwe Media Commission has been receiving a lot of criticism,” Pillay said.

“I was very struck, during my meeting with the three thematic commissions, that the media commission seemed much more concerned with controlling and censoring media than with promoting freedom of expression.”

On Tuesday, the envoy met the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission and ZMC.

She also criticised the harassment of journalists by the authorities using laws such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, Broadcasting Services Act and the Public Order and Security Act .

Pillay urged the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) to licence more players and stop Zanu PF from monopolising ZBC.

BAZ officials on Thursday told Parliament the authority would no longer issue licences to national radio stations after dishing two licences two Zanu PF-aligned companies.

Information and Publicity minister Webster Shamu has ignored several directives from principals in the inclusive government to reconstitute the BAZ board.

Pillay also expressed concern over delays in the operationalisation of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission.

She said one way of breaking the impasse over the proposed Human Rights Bill was to adopt a reconciliatory framework.

“I stress that this does not mean that past human rights violations such as the devastating large-scale killings and other violations in Matabeleland and Midlands in the 1980s, or the 2008 election violence should be swept under the carpet,” Pillay said.

“Far from it! There should never be impunity for serious crimes, and justice is essential if peace and stability are to endure.”

She said human rights violations against women — sexual, domestic and politically-motivated — were on the rise while the alleged perpetrators, most of whom were known, were walking scot-free. The envoy also called for a review of the sanctions imposed on Zanu PF officials and some parastatals, saying they were hurting ordinary people.

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