Herald newspaper censors statement from lawyers
By Lance Guma
04 March 2009
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) expressed dismay at the state owned Herald newspaper for refusing to publish its statement on the formation of a Civil Society Monitoring Mechanism. Several civil society groups met last week to form an independent body to monitor the implementation of the power sharing agreement between ZANU PF and the MDC, which created the coalition government. But old habits die hard and the Herald newspaper bluntly refused to carry the statement announcing the formation of the body, unless they could censor it.
On Thursday last week officials from the ZLHR visited Herald House to book space for their statement. They were told by one of the advertising representatives that the statement would be taken to the newspaper’s Editor for vetting, before any placement was made. He later informed ZLHR that the Editor had recommended the dropping of two paragraphs in order for it to be carried by the newspaper.
The paragraphs targeted for removal spoke about, ‘the continued assault on the fundamental rights and freedoms of the people of Zimbabwe, in particular human rights defenders and legitimate political activists.’ It went on to express ZLHR’s solidarity with, ‘our colleagues and others who remain unjustly incarcerated at various prisons, remand facilities and hospitals around Zimbabwe.’ ZLHR refused to allow their statement to be censored and so the advert was not placed in the Herald.
The lawyers group condemned the censorship, saying the Herald was supposed to be a public newspaper. They said this incident highlighted ‘the urgent need for the coalition government, particularly the new Minister of Media and Information Publicity Webster Shamu and his deputy Jameson Timba, to restore the credibility and independence of the state-run print media and broadcaster so that they truly function in the public interest. As a public media the Herald must provide balanced and fair coverage to all Zimbabweans, parties and organizations for their legitimate activities.’
Meanwhile ZLHR Executive Director Irene Petras told Newsreel on Wednesday that at least 25 civil society groups will be monitoring the implementation of the power sharing deal. She says each organization has a particular area of focus and will help in the compilation of monthly monitoring reports.