International press outcry over passport seizure

THE seizure of the passport of owner and publisher of the Zimbabwe Independent and Standard and leading South African weekly, the Mail & Guardian, Trevor Ncube, has captured the attention of international news organisations, which hav

e slammed the action by government as an attempt to silence dissent.


* International Press Institute director Johann P Fritz wrote to South African President Thabo Mbeki asking him to “use your office to raise the issue of press freedom in neighbouring Zimbabwe at the highest levels of the Zimbabwean government.


“In particular, IPI calls on Your Excellency to express the concerns of the South African government and the wider international community at the confiscation of publisher Trevor Ncube’s passport and the growing evidence that the Zimbabwean government intends to target a list of around 60 people in the same manner under an amendment to the Zimbabwean Constitution.


“Given South Africa’s modern history of overthrowing apartheid, and its many brutalities and intimidations, no other country in Southern Africa is better placed to remind the Zimbabwean government of the need to uphold fundamental human rights and freedoms, including freedom of expression.”

Ncube recovered his passport this week after making a High Court application.


* Reporters Without Borders said: “How repressive can Robert Mugabe’s government get before it is called to account? Zimbabwe is a member of the Southern African Development Community and is under South Africa’s influence, yet it is not threatened with any coercive measure over its repeated press violations. Action to help Zimbabweans recover their civil and political liberties is long overdue.”


* World Association of Newspapers president, Gavin O’ Reilly said: “We are seriously concerned that the confiscation of his (Ncube’s) passport may be related to criticism of Zimbabwean authorities contained in the newspapers he publishes.


“We respectfully remind you that if this is so, the seizure of Mr Ncube’s passport constitutes a clear breach of his right to freedom of expression, which is guaranteed by numerous international conventions, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19 of the Declaration states:

‘Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media, regardless of frontier’.”


* The Mail & Guardian board chair Prof MW Makgoba said: “We call on the government of Zimbabwe to urgently return Ncube’s passport to ensure that his freedom of movement is returned to him. We have no doubt that Ncube is being punished for shining the light of truth on the rights abuses in Zimbabwe, a country which he loves and of which he is a son.


“The confiscation of Ncube’s passport is yet another step backward in Zimbabwe’s decline. It is a sad day for Africa and a step back for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad), the continental programme aimed at lifting our continent high.”


* Print Media SA president Connie Molusi said: “Print Media SA believes that this action further undermines the principles of freedom of expression and freedom of the press in Zimbabwe.


“This is a flagrant assault on the media and freedom of expression .


“We are very concerned that this action not only interferes with Ncube’s rights of free movement as a citizen, but also restricts his activities as an accomplished publisher of various newspapers with titles in Southern Africa.” – Staff Writer.