Describe the main features of the measure/initiative:
In developing a baseline report on the legal framework for artistic freedom and censorship in Zimbabwe, Freemuse and Nhimbe Trust engaged in dialogue with artists and cultural professionals to capture how their work had been enabled or impeded by censorship regulations. The aim of this action was to identify patterns of censorship practices for the purposes of: 1. influencing the legislative agenda on censorship based on evidence-based knowledge. 2. enhancing civil society solidarity in matters relating to the identification and the challenging of legislative, policy and administrative provisions that impede artistic expressions, in their diversity. 3. building an indicator of good practice that can be emulated by artists and cultural professionals in other countries and regions. This intervention was a response to preliminary observations on the application and implementation of Censorship Provisions in Zimbabwe. One of the key pieces of legislation regulating artistic freedom and expression in Zimbabwe is the Censorship and Entertainment Control Act. Notably, this Act has been earmarked for amendment under the framework of the Constitutional alignment process. At the time of the implementation of theintervention under discussion, the Act provided the circumstances and standards under which the Censorship Board was authorized to censor artistic works. Broadly, the Act sought ‘to regulate and control the public exhibition of films; the importation, production, dissemination and possession of undesirable or prohibited video and film material, publications, pictures, statues and records, and the giving of public entertainments; to regulate theatres and like places of public entertainment.’ In drawing from universal norms relating to possible limitations of the right to artistic freedom, within or beyond censorship regulatory measures, the Freemuse and Nhimbe Trust sought to affirm, advance, and popularise universal principles guiding the protection and promotion of artistic freedom. In reference to the 2013 ‘Freedom of Artistic Expression and Creativity Report’ issued by the UN Special Rapporteur in the field of Cultural Rights, the initiative was premised on these report specifications: 1. Art constitutes an important vehicle for each person, individually and in community with others, as well as groups of people, to develop and express their humanity, worldview and meanings assigned to their existence and development. 2. Artists may entertain people, but they also contribute to social debates, sometimes bringing counter-discourses and potential counterweights to existing power centres. 3. The vitality of artistic creativity is necessary for the development of vibrant cultures and the functioning of democratic societies. 4. Artistic expressions and creations are an integral part of cultural life, which entails contesting meanings and revisiting culturally inherited ideas and concepts. 5. The crucial task of implementation of universal human rights norms is to prevent the arbitrary privileging of certain perspectives on account of their traditional authority, institutional or economic power, or demographic supremacy in society.
What are the results achieved so far through the implementation of the measure/initiative?:
A combination of legal analysis, public advocacy and analysing interviews with artists, revealed that within the context of Zimbabwe: a) Artistic expressions can be censored if they are deemed undesirable; indecent or obscene; offensive or harmful to public morals; or contrary to the interest of defence, public safety, public order, and the economic interests of the state or public health. The lack of clarification on what this entails, how they are measured or considered, empowered the Censorship Board to make such considerations at its own discretion. b) Violations of the Censorship Act resulted in individuals being liable to a fine or imprisonment. c) The Censorship Board under section 25 of the Act was empowered to seize any articles for examination by the Board. d) The Censorship Board’s composition and process for making censorship decisions was not transparent. Artists and cultural professionals made reference to the absence of publicly accessible information on procedures guiding appointments to the board as well as information on what happens to work of art that are either seized or submitted for review. e) The Censorship Board’s decisions were, in principle, appealable to the Censorship Appeal Board.However, a Minister, under whose ministry jurisdiction the Board was placed, was empowered to override the decision of “the Appeal Board or of any court to which any decision, order or proceedings of the Board or the Appeal Board has or have been brought on review or appeal,’ if the minister believed the decision to not be consistent with public interest. f) The Censorship Board and other bodies censoring or regulating artistic expressions, should be replaced by a classification board mandated to issue age recommendations to protect children.