There was no freedom of expression in Rhodesia

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NOW and again we get childish cries from the foreign-owned press in this country as well as from the dying MDC formations that there is no freedom of expression in this country.
They go on to say that in Rhodesia freedom of expression was the order of things. Freedom of expression in Rhodesia!
What a sick joke this is!
Below we would like to show that there is freedom of expression in Zimbabwe while there was none in Rhodesia.
We shall start by looking at the supreme law of our land, the Constitution. Section 61 of the new Constitution clearly states that, “Every person has the right to freedom of expression and freedom of the media which includes freedom to seek, receive and communicate ideas and other information, freedom of artistic expression and scientific research and creativity and academic freedom.
“Every person is entitled to freedom of the media which includes protection of the confidentiality of journalists’ sources of information.”
If we look at the situation in our country because of the freedom of expression and of the media in our Constitution, there is a proliferation of both the opposition media and the state media.
For example, we look at the opposition media.
We have lots of newspapers that exist who do not support the Government view.
We have for instance newspapers such as, Daily News, The Independent, The Zimbabwean, Newsday, The Southern Eye, etc which you find at every street corner.
These newspapers day in day out attack the Government and the head of state and no harm comes their way.
Some of them concentrated on lying, but still nothing terrible ever comes their way.
In Rhodesia, there was never a bill of rights in their Law.
And so there was no provision in their law like the one we quoted above which expressly gave citizens the right to express themselves freely and run newspapers of their choice.
There were no opposition newspapers in Rhodesia such as the Independent, Daily News etc who were allowed to exist and champion the opinions of the opposition. African opinion did not count at all.
The one or two weekly tabloids that tried to preach the views of Africans e.g. Moto were either bombed or closed completely.
One of the best examples which illustrate the lack of freedom of expression in Rhodesia involved a journalist whose name was Peter Niesewand.
Below we give some highlights of what happened to that poor fellow.
Peter Niesewand was a correspondent for the Guardian, the Daily Mail, Agencey France Press, United Press International, Reuters, the BBC and other media.
One of the stories he sent to the BBC got him into serious trouble. Here is the story, which he wrote and it says:
“In August, Rhodesian Minister of Defence, Mr Jack Howman, said that if the Portuguese military authorities asked Rhodesia for help to fight terrorists in the Tete area, this would be granted.
“Military sources say that although the Rhodesian government is reluctant to officially admit its forces are already taking an active part in the Mozambique war, the true position is that security forces from this country have been involved for most this year.”
Now once this story went out, Peter Niesewand got into hot soup. The government blamed his story, can you believe it, for triggering the ZANLA offensive that started in the North East of the country with the attack on Altena Farm in Centenary district on December 21 1972.
Further he was blamed for the panic that gripped the white farming community in Centenary after the Altena farm attacks.
And before Peter Niesewand knew what was happening, he was detained at Gweru Prison under solitary confinement for months. He was then hauled before the courts to be tried for breaching security regulation. But he wasn’t tried in open court.
He was tried in camera!
The entire hearing was conducted in camera and journalists were not allowed to report anything that went on in that court.
In the end he was found guilty.
He appealed, but was then released on condition he left the country immediately. This is what eventually happened.
This was Rhodesia.
Now has any journalist ever been detained and then tried in camera in Zimbabwe. In Rhodesia, journalists worked in a real toxic atmosphere. For example, a journalist could even be blamed for a rumour which was started by government.
Just listen to this blame which was heaped on Peter Niesewand when things got nasty in Centenary after the Altena farm attack.
“When rumours began circulating that the BBC had carried reports of Centenary farmers leaving their homes and fleeing to Salisbury (Harare) because of the guerilla offensive, it seemed to many Rhodesians both inside and outside my work was to blame.
“I received a number of calls asking what was meant by it as it was untrue.
“I appeared to be a target of a smear campaign.”
And yet the S had never carried such a rumour.
In Rhodesia if an opposition politician went to address a rally the Special Branch police required that he spoke through a gadget which recorded all what he said. What this meant was that that politician would censor himself heavily lest he would be arrested for things he said once the police listened to the recording. Today opposition politicians are not required to use police tape recorders when speaking.
Poor Morgan Tsvangirai or his dear brother Tendai Biti can say all they want without being required to censor their speeches.
This is because there is freedom of expression in Zimbabwe while none existed in Rhodesia.

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