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MISA-Zimbabwe Monthly Alerts Digest- July 2009

A comparative analysis of regional constitutional provisions on freedom of expression and media freedom: By Farai Nhende

American constitutionalist, Alexander Hamilton, once said:"If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is no doubt the primary control on government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions."(1)

The "auxiliary precautions" referred to by Hamilton included, in my view, not only the courts and other organs of state but the need for a constitutional legal framework established to support these relationships between the state and the governed. If men and women were angels, indeed we would not require basic human freedoms such as the right to vote and freedom of expression (which includes the right to seek, receive and impart information) to be protected in national constitutions.

It is from this premise that the ensuing survey will attempt to examine the laws governing freedom of expression and media freedom in other jurisdictions within the SADC region more so in the context of Zimbabwe's ongoing constitution making process and the need for a constitutional provision that explicitly guarantees media freedom and the right to access to information.

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