The right to work without threat of violence is a basic human right. Everyone – from journalists, to bloggers, to people who just have something to say – has the right to form and express his or her opinions. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights upholds this right to freely seek, receive and send out information, ideas and opinions through any media.
For freedom of expression to exist, there must be a free press, and the safety and security of journalists is the hallmark of a free press.
International Human Rights Law provides for many rights relating to the safety of journalists, including the right to life, personal liberty and integrity, freedom from torture, freedom of expression, and the right to an effective remedy.
International legal instruments
- The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) secures the “right to life, liberty and security of person” (Article 3), the right not to be subjected to “torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” (Article 5) or arbitrary arrest (Article 9), and the right to an effective remedy for violations of one’s rights (Article 8).
- The International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights (ICCPR) gives the right to effective remedy (Article 3), the right to life (Article 6), prohibition of torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (Article 7), the right to liberty and security of the person (Article 9), and freedom of expression (Article 19).
Regional legal instruments
- The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights guarantees individuals against arbitrary deprivation of the right to life (Article 4), prohibits torture and other inhuman treatment (Article 5), guarantees the right to liberty and security (Article 6), and freedom of expression (Article 9).
- Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa, states that attacks such as the murder, kidnapping, intimidation of and threats to media practitioners and others exercising their right to freedom of expression, undermines independent journalism, freedom of expression and the free flow of information to the public.
- The Declaration of Table Mountain calls for the repeal of criminal defamation and ‘insult’ laws, across the African continent, which are used to harass, arrest and/or imprison media workers.
- The 1991 Windhoek Declaration calls for a free, independent and pluralistic media and includes a call to end the murder, arrest, detention and censorship of media workers.
Priorities: revisiting/drafting alternative laws, media defense fund, fundraising, litigation, media law knowledge production and research, media lawyers network, telecommunications/digitization law research, media courses for lawyers
Activities: test case litigation, publication of research and media law books, legal aid, drafting alternative laws, MLN meetings, publicising alternative laws; lobbying MPs, government.
Expected Outcomes: considered alternative laws, new media law epistemology, vibrant MLN, court rulings, updated media law literature in training institutions, successful legal intervention.
As part of its programming, MISA-Zimbabwe offers legal support through its Legal Department which is manned by two lawyers.
The aim of the work carried out under this programme, is to offer legal protection and support to media practitioners and institutions towards protection of their media freedom, freedom of expression and right of access to information.
Within this program, the legal department works with a group of lawyers who have shown an interest as well as expertise in media laws and human rights.
The lawyers provide legal representation, advice and legal analysis and research as and when the need arises. This network of lawyers known as the Media Lawyers Network, has members in different provinces throughout the country for speedy response and assistance whenever the need arises.
Support offered under this programme includes provisions of free legal representation as well as provision of any other support that may be required in relation to media freedom, freedom of expression or right of access to information violations.
Workshops and other public platforms are also conducted for the media and the members of the Media Lawyers Network to interface and raise awareness on the country’s media laws, as well as sharing the experiences and challenges of the media industry in Zimbabwe.
Services offered under this programme go a long way in fulfilling MISA Zimbabwe’s mission and vision for the emergence of a Zimbabwe in which the media and citizens enjoy rights to freedom of expression and access to information, independent from political, economic and commercial interests and influences.