Ban on documentary slammed

HARARE - Nhimbe Trust, an arts organisation that advocates for public policies in cultural matters has castigated the banning of Democrats by the Censorship Board of Zimbabwe.

Democrats is a documentary which followed the proceedings during the constitution-making process from 2010-2013. It was banned by the board as they deemed it, “not suitable for public showing”.

Josh Nyapimbi, Nhimbe Trust executive director said the ban violates the Zimbabwean Constitution.

“Nhimbe recognises that the right to freedom of expression and freedom of artistic expression is not absolute. This is in line with Section 61(5) of Zimbabwe’s Constitution, which stipulates limits to freedom of expression. The section states that freedom of expression and freedom of the media may be limited to protect human dignity, protect the right to privacy and prevent incitement to violence and hate speech.

“The Censorship and Entertainments Control Act, granting authority to the Censorship Board, has a separate criteria that principally attempt to lay out instances that call for censorship.

“Works that have been created as a consequence of exercising the right to freedom of expression may be censored if the board concludes that they are undesirable, indecent, offensive or harmful to public morals. Censorship may further be enacted when freedom of expression contradicts inherent interests of defence, public order, public safety, public health and State economy,” he said.

The constitution-making process was led by three politicians; Douglas Mwonzora from the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC, Edward Mkhosi from Welshman Ncube’s MDC and Paul Mangwana of Zanu PF.

The documentary was directed by Camilla Nielsson, who is a documentary film director from Tisch School of the Art and has a Master in visual anthropology from New York University.

He added that the right to freedom of expression and right to artistic freedom are paradoxically the most universal rights yet the most controversial and most contested.

“The Censorship Board of Zimbabwe’s recent ban on Democrats, a documentary chronicling the constitution-making process in Zimbabwe, alleging it was unfit for viewership in the country, has heightened civil society’s reservations about the legitimacy of the Censorship Board.

“The arbitrary and vague manner surrounding the banning of Democrats reveals the manner in which the Censorship Board lacks transparency in both the structural constitution of the board and due processes informing decision-making.

“Unjustified censorship, prohibitions and restrictions should be challenged in every aspect and facet. Everyone should assume responsibility for defending the right to freedom of expression by ensuring that the alignment of legislation to the new Constitution addresses vague standards that threaten to unconstitutionally prohibit fundamental freedoms and rights.

“Further, there should be a call for the establishment of a classification board which, instead of solely censoring, will classify materials according to age appropriateness to ensure that viewers make informed choices about the kind of artistic experience they want to have,” said Nyapimbi.

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