Monday, 28 July 2008

An Abhorrent Form of Censorship

Two Zimbabwean journalists from the state-owned Sunday Mail and Herald newspapers -- Munyaradzi Huni and Caesar Zvayi -- have been placed on the European Union's sanctions list. The two, alongside other perceived supporters of the Mugabe regime, will have their assets frozen and will not be allowed into European Union territory ("Journalists added to EU sanctions list," SW Radio Africa, July 23).

This move is shocking because it is a blatant attempt at mind-control and is clearly aimed at muzzling all voices, other than those that are seen and heard to be supporting Morgan Tsvangirai.

I say the decision to place the journalists on the sanctions list is an attempt at mind-control because, early this month, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner stated that the EU would not recognise any government in Zimbabwe other than a government led by Tsvangirai ("EU wants Tsvangirai to head Zimbabwe govt", Reuters, July 1).

The EU, like the United States, tries to justify this position by arguing that because Tsvangirai 'won' the March 29 elections, he should, therefore, lead the country.

In all likelihood, the EU is aware that the argument it is advancing on who should lead Zimbabwe is deeply flawed. This would explain why it is now waging psychological warfare on writers and political commentators -- it wants to manipulate and control what journalists, writers and political commentators write and say about Tsvangirai.

I say the EU's position on Tsvangirai is flawed because it is not and should not be up to the EU to decide who should have what position in the Zimbabwean government. That decision should be left to the people of Zimbabwe.

In addition to that, the EU's position on who should lead the country is flawed because it is based on the embellishment that Tsvangirai won the March 29 elections. The truth of the matter is that Tsvangirai got 47.9% of the votes and this fell short of the 50% (plus 1) that both the MDC and Zanu-PF had agreed were needed in order to determine who should lead the country.

Based on the results of the March 29 elections, it can actually be argued that the majority of the people in Zimbabwe (52.1%), do not have confidence in Morgan Tsvangirai as a leader.

Had Tsvangirai taken part in the June 27 presidential run-off and had he received 50% plus 1 of the votes, then yes, he would have had the right to lead the country. But because he unilaterally pulled out of the elections, he left Robert Mugabe as the sole candidate. And, because Mugabe was the sole contestant in the June 27 elections, he won and is, therefore, the legitimate leader of Zimbabwe.

Also, Zvayi no longer works for the Sunday Mail and I doubt that Huni, like the bulk of those working within Zimbabwe's state-owned media, can afford to travel to any part of the EU. It is also highly unlikely that any of them have assets in the EU.

In placing these two journalists on the sanctions list, the EU is actually trying to instill fear and create a psychological block on all writers and commentators who have an interest in Zimbabwe and who have an alternative take on what is happening there. This is further evidenced by the fact that, currently, among other things, Peter Mavhunga -- a court probation officer and part-time newspaper columnist who has been living and working in the U.K. for the past 30 years -- is now being subjected to a witch-hunt by British authorities because he writes for the Zimbabwean state-owned Herald newspaper ("UK bars Zim DJs,", July 15).

While I believe that a solution needs to be found to the country's political and economic crisis, I do not believe that threatening, harassing and intimidating writers in this manner will do anything to resolve the crisis.

Behaviours like these are an abhorrent form of censorship and are an attack on the freedoms of speech, thought and association. They are no different from the treatment repressive regimes all over the world routinely mete out on writers they see as expressing views that deviate from and which threaten the regimes' interests.

In placing Huni and Zvayi on its sanctions list, the EU is, in effect, threatening, not only journalists who work for the state-owned media in Zimbabwe, but all people who have an interest in the future of the country and is telling them, "If you are seen to be supporting anyone other than Tsvangirai, we will make life uncomfortable for you."
Instead of threatening writers and political commentators, if the EU truly wants a feasible solution to the crisis in Zimbabwe, it should support the mediation efforts that are currently being overseen by South African President Thabo Mbeki.


An earlier version of this article has been featured on OhmyNews International.

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