By Thandiwe Garusa
ZIMBABWE is experiencing a backslide on the democracy ratings as civic space is shrinking and disinformation growing, while threats on journalists are more prevalent, human rights lawyers have said.
In a statement to commemorate the International Day of Democracy, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) expressed concern and urged authorities to create an enabling environment for journalists as the nation heads towards next year’s election.
This year, International Democracy Day is commemorated under the theme-“Potecting Press Freedom For Democracy.”
International Day of Democracy is marked yearly on September 15 and provides an opportunity to review the state of democracy in the world.
According to the World Press Freedom rankings, Zimbabwe’s position went down seven points to 137 in 2022, as compared to 2021.
“With Zimbabwe scheduled to hold general elections in 2023, ZLHR is disconcerted by the government’s failure to create an enabling environment for journalists and other media practitioners.
“Acknowledge the contributions, importance and rights of journalists and other media practitioners in a constitutional democracy through ensuring that their fundamental rights are protected in a manner that is consistent with the Constitution; cease arbitrary arrests, malicious prosecutions and pre-trial detention of journalists for their lawful work and hold those who violate rights of
journalists through assaults, threats and other actions-accountable,” ZLHR said.
The lawyer’s body also called for the withdrawal of the draconian Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) (Amendment) Bill and adopt legislation conducive to a less restrictive and more enabling operating environment for civil society organisations.
The rights lawyers also said disabling a diverse and robust civic society will lead to disruption of information and evidence gathering that would inform the media stories.