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Prime Minister promises reform in government attitude to freedoms of expression, association and assembly

(MISA/IFEX) - The following is a 5 March 2009 MISA press release:

Prime Minister speaks on media and freedom of expression rights

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on 4 March 2009 said the government would undertake training programmes that will empower government institutions to understand the application of human rights and the rule of law particularly as it relates to freedom of expression, association and assembly.

In his inaugural address to Parliament, Prime Minister Tsvangirai said the Global Political Agreement signed by the two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formations and Zanu PF on 15 September 2008 commits the police and other law enforcement agencies to conduct themselves lawfully and to uphold the rule of law.

"Our citizens have the right to express their views to us their leadership. Therefore, the days of the police wantonly and violently breaking up peaceful demonstrations and gatherings and needlessly imprisoning innocent Zimbabweans must now come to an end."

"In the future, such activities could bring the threat of prosecution not only on those arresting or interfering with such activities but also on those that ordered such interference and arrests. Command responsibility is a concept we must address and embrace," he said.

The Prime Minister said the government should immediately process all applications for re-registration and registration of media houses in terms of the Broadcasting Services Act and Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA). "No society can prosper without freedom of expression and communication. Those wishing to practice journalism must be able to do so without being prohibited by unnecessary restrictions or exorbitant fees."

He said the concepts of freedom were not foreign to Zimbabwean culture nor were they imposed by foreigners. "Evidence of this is clear to see in our neighbouring countries where the rights of the people are defended vigorously, where political parties are free to campaign and where there is a healthy choice of radio and television stations and newspapers to choose from."

The Prime Minister said there would be no need for Zimbabwean radio stations to continue being based abroad once an open and free media environment has been achieved. Turning to political detainees who include freelance photojournalist Shadreck Andersen Manyere, he said they were being punished before being convicted. One of the detainees, Jestina Mukoko, the director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project and former television news anchor with the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, was granted bail on 2 March 2009.

"The fact that some of these individuals have been incarcerated for months without trial smacks of political persecution. This will not be tolerated under our new government. Justice must be done and must be seen to be done," said the Prime Minister.

MISA-Zimbabwe Position

While MISA-Zimbabwe welcomes the Prime Minister's remarks on the need to respect fundamental rights to freedom of expression , association and assembly, his sentiments should immediately be pursued through meaningful steps to free the media environment through the institution of fundamental media law and policy reforms.

For further information on the Mukoko case, see:

For further information on the Manyere case, see:

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