On 21 August, stakeholders in Zimbabwe’s internet sector met at the National Internet Governance Conference hosted by MISA-Zimbabwe in Harare. The conference participants agreed on 14 guiding “principles and actions on internet governance in Zimbabwe.”
The seventh principle emphasised the importance of decriminalising expression to enable information flow freely. According to a statement from the conference, “in order for the internet to reach its fullest potential of allowing Zimbabweans to enjoy their human rights, stakeholders actively embrace the decriminalisation of freedom of expression.”
A report on MISA-Zimbabwe’s website notes that the need to include decriminalisation of expression into the final report was pushed for by civil society stakeholders.
Challenges to free expression still remain in the southern Africa country. In March 2015, an online newspaper was ordered by a court to withdraw two stories which had rubbed a telecom company and a bank the wrong way. Later, policemen and IT experts raided the newspaper’s premises to search for the documents it had relied on to write its stories, claiming they were stolen.
A criminal defamation law declared unconstitutional by the Zimbabwe Constitutional Court in 2014 is also still active. According to MISA-Zimbabwe, “the law in question had only been struck off in terms of the old Constitution,” but is constitutional under the current constitution.