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MISA-Zimbabwe Fumes Over Banning of Constitution-Making Documentary

FILE: President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai at the constitution signing ceremony.
FILE: President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai at the constitution signing ceremony.

The government Censorship Board has banned a documentary, Democrats, narrating the constitution-making process, alleging that it is unfit for Zimbabweans.

The independent NewsDay newspaper reports that the ban follows an application by Upfront Films to distribute the documentary.

The documentary features Douglas Mwonzora, secretary general of the Movement for Democratic Change, and Zanu PF’s Paul Mangwana, who were some of the officials that led the constitution-making process.

The banning of the documentary means that it cannot be screened in Zimbabwe.

In a statement, the Zimbabwe chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) said, “This is yet another testament to the continued flagrant violation of the country's constitution.

“Section 61 (1) (a) and (b), clearly provide for the right to seek, receive and communicate ideas and other information as well as freedom of artistic expression and scientific research and creativity. These provisions read together with Section 62, which explicitly guarantees "every Zimbabwe citizen or permanent resident" the right to access information are unambiguous on freedoms due to Zimbabweans.”

MISA-Zimbabwe said nothing in the limitation clauses justifies the board's action. “Although the report did not state which law the Censorship Board used to arrive at its decision, it can only be assumed that the regulator used its parent Act, the discredited Censorship and Entertainments Control Act.”

It said the fact that the board has resorted to banning a documentary, which has been aired repeatedly by other media on satellite TV, from reaching the majority of Zimbabweans, “simply exposes authorities' paranoia of free flowing information and their fixation with entrenching uncritical discourse in the public domain. All of which, is nurtured by the retention of a raft of outdated laws that are in open conflict with the constitution.”

MISA-Zimbabwe said it is for this reason that it continues to call for the urgent repeal of all laws that perpetuate the erosion of Zimbabweans' guaranteed rights to freedom of expression and access to information through diverse media of their choice.

“Those in office cannot continue to claim that the country is a constitutional democracy when their actions increasingly show complete disregard for constitutionalism.”

Efforts to contact the Censorship Board were unsuccessful as acting secretary, Isaac Chiranganyika, was not available for comment.