Executive Summary

The protection and promotion of the right to freedom of expression has an extensive and diverse history that is unique across jurisdictions. It is mainly influenced and shaped by cultural, political, socio-economic, and technological changes.

Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and an indispensable element in the development and consolidation of a democratic society. It enhances transparency and accountability of governments and institutions.

Freedom of expression is a facilitative right that is essential for the enjoyment of other human rights such as the right to education, freedoms of assembly and association, political participation, access to justice, human dignity, equality, and other rights. It is also essential for human development.

Under international law, states have an obligation to adopt measures to ensure full enjoyment of the right of freedom of expression. The right to freedom of expression is guaranteed under international law and most constitutions have provisions that provide for the right to freedom of expression, albeit with limitations.

However, this right is seemingly under threat, remains contested in most jurisdictions worldwide and is being subjected to more limitations through practices and adoption of laws that limit this right.

The digital age that is characterised by advancements in information and communications technology (ICT) has greatly transformed freedom of expression and brought opportunities and challenges.

In Zimbabwe, the Constitution guarantees freedom of expression but there is dearth in statutory laws that give effect to the relevant constitutional provisions. Since Zimbabwe attained independence in 1980, there has been a general disregard of freedom of expression and the state has focused on passing laws and practices that entrench violations of freedom of expression, prior to the coming into being of the 2013 Constitution with its comprehensive and democratic Bill of Rights.

The purpose of this article is to examine the status of the right to freedom of expression in Zimbabwe, articulating its legal basics and normative foundations, analysing the current circumstances. The article also draws on international human rights standards, while also examining the relevant restrictions. The article commends the repeal and revision of laws that hinder the enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression in Zimbabwe.

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A research paper done by Hlengiwe Dube on behalf of MISA Zimbabwe

Source: MISA Zimbabwe