BY RICHARD MUPONDE
European Union (EU) ambassador to Zimbabwe, Timo Olkkonen has warned President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government against crafting repressive legislation that undermine political liberties and freedom of speech.
Olkkonen said this on Saturday in his belated address in commemoration of the 2021 Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Zimbabwe World Press Freedom Day held in Harare.
He said some of the proposed amendments to laws, including constitutional amendments, would erode the progress that the country had made so far in terms of guaranteeing freedoms to citizens.
Olkkonen said the Zanu PF proposed Patriotic Bill had the potential of derailing progress made in advancing access to information and freedom of speech by the media and citizens.
“Besides the progress on the legal framework, the reform agenda should adopt a holistic approach than a fragmented approach so that the gains made under one law might not be eroded under another. Misa has referred to this as clawback laws and indeed it is important that progress in other areas is not undermined by underdevelopment in other areas,” Olkkenen said.
The Patriotic Bill prohibits Zimbabwean citizens from wilfully communicating messages intended to harm the image and reputation of the country on international platforms, or engaging with foreign countries with the intention of communicating messages intended to harm the country’s positive image and undermine its integrity and reputation.
“We have made reference to other laws having seen progress in access to information and freedom of association, it is important that other laws do not undermine this progress. The EU has been concerned about the proposals of the Patriotic Bill. There is a need for a holistic approach, of looking at all the legislation together and see what are the effects on political liberties and on freedom of speech,” he said.
On Friday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa signed the Constitutional Amendment No 2 Bill into law, strengthening his hold on power.
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