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Government plan to revoke all NGO licences violates free expression rights, obligations under African Charter, says ARTICLE 19

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - The following is a 26 April 2007 ARTICLE 19 press release:

Zimbabwean Government Announces Plans to Revoke all NGO Licences

ARTICLE 19 condemns the Zimbabwean government's decision to move to cancel all registration certificates of non-government organisations (NGOs) in order to "sift out those seeking to force regime change in Zimbabwe", as reported by the State broadcaster, Zimbabwe Television. Such a move is a clear violation of Zimbabwe's human rights obligations under the African Charter on Human and People's Rights, particularly in respect of the right of freedom of expression and the right of freedom of assembly.

The hundreds of Zimbabwean NGOs perform essential functions not provided for by the State, including humanitarian assistance, food aid and housing, care of orphans and other vulnerable children, as well as providing support for the protection of social, economic and civil rights.

ARTICLE 19 calls upon the Zimbabwean government not to proceed with its threatened cancellation of NGO licences. Such a move will deepen the everyday suffering of Zimbabweans in the current severe socio-economic crisis, and worsen Zimbabwe's reputation as a State which fails to uphold its obligations under the African Charter.

ARTICLE 19 is an independent human rights organisation that works globally to protect and promote the right to freedom of expression. It takes its name from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees free speech.

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