ZANU-PF Supporters Disrupt Parliamentary Hearing on Human Rights Bill | Freedom House

ZANU-PF Supporters Disrupt Parliamentary Hearing on Human Rights Bill

On July 23, participants and journalists observing a Zimbabwean parliamentary hearing were harassed and assaulted by Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party supporters.  Nearly 300 supporters of the political party intentionally disrupted a hearing held to assess public viewpoints on the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill (ZHRC), and initially prevented the public and civil society organizations from making submissions. The unruly mob harassed and assaulted parliamentary members and journalists Aaron Ufumeli, Lev Mukarati and Nqaba Matshazi. ZANU-PF supporters forcefully removed Mukarate and Matshazi from the room, demanding that Ufumeli delete his pictures after attempting to steal his camera. The three journalists were also accused by the group of ZANU-PF supporters of falsifying information.

While a United Nations' resolution explicitly condemns violence against journalists, journalists in Zimbabwe have faced increasing danger in recent months, including harassment, arrest, and prolonged, unlawful detention. At a workshop held for youth on politics last week, ZANU-PF militants ransacked the meeting and prevented U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Charles Ray from speaking. In July 2011, three employees from the weekly Standard newspaper were arrested and charged with criminal defamation of the government after writing about the arrest of Jameson Timba, a senior aide to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who made negative remarks about President Robert Mugabe. A number of other independent newspaper offices have been broken into as well, including the offices of the Mirror in June 2011, and Newsday April 2011, in which the hard drives of senior editorial staff were stolen.  
Freedom House acknowledges ZANU-PF supporters' right to freedom of speech and expression, but condemns the violent actions by the group in disrupting a public hearing instrumental to improving the human rights situation in Zimbabwe.

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