Zimbabwe has been in a process of trying to implement its
new Constitution, enacted in 2013. Very little has been done to
synchronise access to information laws with the new Constitution.
Out of the 159 laws aligned with the Constitution, none of these
have been access to information laws. There have been a lot of
threats to members of the media during the time of this study.
Government also announced a Cyber Crime Bill to curb what it
said is ‘Cyber terrorism’ but the government is responding to a
recent spate of civil disobedience led by #ThisFlag, an online
campaign relying on Facebook to convey its messages. The
campaign aims to mobilise citizens to hold the government of
Zimbabwe accountable for the “poverty, corruption, and injustice
that plague” Zimbabwe.
On 6 July, the day that both the online movement and teachers
unions announced that there will be a mass strike, the Whatsapp
platform mysteriously went down and could only work when
VPN software was installed. This suggested that the platform
had been deliberately shut down by network operators under
the orders of government. Whatsapp was the main platform
conveying messages of the strike alongside pictures and videos
of violence that was occurring in the country. The attempt was
an effort by government to stifle access to information by closing
down some social media platforms.
One anonymous internet group responded by attacking
government websites. Credit to government for quickly putting
the websites up again. For example, the Ministry of Finance
which we studied in this research had its website hacked but it
was up again in no time.
Early in the year, state media journalists were arrested for
writing an investigative story on elephant poaching involving
high ranking police officers. Police proceeded to arrest the two
journalists and their editor, demanding to know where they had
accessed their information. The matter is still before the courts
but it highlighted how accessing information in Zimbabwe has
been made a taboo by those who are in authority.
Earlier on, other journalists running an online publication were
arrested and questioned by the police over the bombing of
President Robert Mugabe’s dairy farm. The journalists were
interrogated on where they had obtained the information. Only
recently, another journalist, Richard Chidza was summoned by
police to disclose his sources on a ‘treasonous’ communiqué
reportedly authored by war veterans in Zimbabwe.
Generally, the access to information and freedom of the media
situation in the country has deteriorated in the last few months,
with threats against journalists by government and political
leaders increasing. Threats to ban social media have also been
made, with military leaders publicly denouncing social media.
The police brutally attacked at least five journalists, including
a BBC journalist who was covering a protest. There has been a
pattern of violating the Constitution.

Under the Constitution the following rights are explicitly
61 Freedom of expression and freedom of the media
(1) Every person has the right to freedom of expression, which
(a) freedom to seek, receive and communicate ideas and other
(b) freedom of artistic expression and scientific research and
creativity; and
(c) academic freedom.
(2) Every person is entitled to freedom of the media, which
freedom includes protection of the confidentiality of
journalists’ sources of information.
(3) Broadcasting and other electronic media of communication
have freedom of establishment, subject only to State licensing
procedures that—
(a) are necessary to regulate the airwaves and other forms of
signal distribution; and
(b) are independent of control by government or by political or
commercial interests.
(4) All State-owned media of communication must—
(a) be free to determine independently the editorial content of
their broadcasts or other communications;
(b) be impartial; and
(c) afford fair opportunity for the presentation of divergent views
and dissenting opinions.
(5) Freedom of expression and freedom of the media do not
(a) incitement to violence;
(b) advocacy of hatred or hate speech;
(c) malicious injury to a person’s reputation or dignity; or
(d) malicious or unwarranted breach of a person’s right to privacy.
62 Access to information
(1) Every Zimbabwean citizen or permanent resident, including
the Zimbabwean media, has the right of access to any
information held by the State or by any institution or agency
of government at every level, in so far as the information is
required in the interests of public accountability.
(2) Every person, including the Zimbabwean media, has the right
of access to any information held by any person, including the
State, in so far as the information is required for the exercise
or protection of a right.
(3) Every person has a right to the correction of information, or
the deletion of untrue, erroneous or misleading information,
which is held by the State or any institution or agency of the
government at any level, and which relates to that person.
(4) Legislation must be enacted to give effect to this right, but
may restrict access to information in the interests of defence,
public security or professional confidentiality, to the extent
that the restriction is fair, reasonable, necessary and justifiable
in a democratic society based on openness, justice, human
dignity, equality and freedom.
There still exists subsidiary legislation that is clearly inconsistent
with these new provisions. Notable among such laws is the
Official Secrets Act 1970, which makes it difficult for citizens


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