A local human rights group, Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, has called on state-owned publications to take down alleged malicious articles that were published a fortnight ago which have resulted in arbitrary arrests of seven human rights defenders.
The forum’s Chairperson Jestina Mukoko said the articles put the lives of the human rights lives at risks as they are now at the mercy of state security.
She said the arrests were in violation of the fundamental rights and freedoms which the leaders of the country are sworn to respect.
“In the past few weeks the state, through the Herald, the Chronicle, its surrogate tabloid the Patriot and online publication the Harare Post has consistently published falsehoods against civil society organizations in a deliberate effort to criminalize the work of civil society, fuel hate and undermine the integrity of the persons who work with and in civil society.
“The forum notes that this work of fiction is not without consequence. The state has in the past used the same media outlets to attack civil society actors that are known to be critical of its human rights record as a way of discouraging them from doing their work. The timing of the malicious article together with the arrest of seven human rights defenders on trumped charges is a serious cause for concern.
“The forum calls on the named publications to immediately retract their falsehoods against civil society and to stop the malicious damage on people’s dignity. Failure to do so will lead to legal action against the publications, the authors and editors,” said Mukoko.
There has been an increase in reported cases in surveillance, office visits and interruption of human rights activists’ meetings by the state security.
This in turn has affected the ability of such organizations to implement initiatives which are meant to address challenges which are affecting communities.
“The forum urges the Government not only to open up civic space, allow civil society and human defenders to carry out their work but also take the necessary steps to alleviate the suffering of citizens in the face of harsh economic conditions,” Mukoko .added.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, Counselling Services Unit, Research and Advocacy Unit, Zimbabwe Lawyers For Human Rights and Zimbabwe Peace Project are some of the organizations that were alleged to have joined the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in a bid to force President Emmerson Mnangagwa out of power.
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