High Court orders government to promote access to information on Covid-19

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The High court of Zimbabwe has, with immediate effect, ordered the ministries of Health and Child Care and Information, Publicity and Broadcasting to promote citizens’ access to information relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Staff Reporter

This follows an urgent chamber application filed by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zimbabwe, represented by lawyer, Rudo Magundani, of Scanlen and Holderness.

The Ministry of Health and Child Care and the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, were cited respectively as first and second respondents in the matter.

In the ruling, High Court judge, Justice Mafusire ordered, with immediate effect, that the respondents should publish and disseminate on all available platforms, the daily Covid-19 updates issued by the Ministry of Health, in all the official languages.

Justice Mafusire, further ordered that with immediate effect, and on a regular basis, the Ministry of Information, should publish and disseminate on all available platforms and in all official
languages the list of all private and public testing and treatment centers at national, provincial and district hospitals allocated for dealing with Covid-19 cases, the type and quantity of medical equipment and any other resources needed and available as well as any further procurements as and when made and how members of the public and private players with capacity may assist.

The court also ordered that the ministry of Information had to publish measures put in place, such as the lockdown as well as the plans and strategies put in place both during and after lockdown by the respondents to combat and contain the spread and transmission of Covid-19.

MISA Zimbabwe expressed that it looked forward to the compliance and enforcement of the court order by the respective ministries.

“Every citizen has the right to comprehensible, accessible, timely and reliable information concerning the nature and level of the threat that COVID-19 poses to their health including evidence-based guidance on how to stay safe,” said the Institute.

MISA Zimbabwe further urged the government and relevant public institutions to be easily accessible and forthcoming with information pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In that regard, the promotion of access to information by the government particularly on information related to its strategies in combating the virus, availability (or lack thereof) of various resources and equipment, will go a long way in promoting transparency and accountability which is key in building public trust.”

The Institute stated that coronavirus related information had be availed to all citizens despite their location, cognisant of people in rural and marginalised communities, or , economic status, taking into consideration those that cannot afford internet access or the mediums being currently relied on for information on the virus.