January 19, 2008

Security and media laws changed

Government has passed changes to the country's security laws after veteran President Robert Mugabe gave his final seal of approval. The government also passed revised electoral laws ahead of the upcoming presidential and legislative polls in March. "The amended Public Order and Security Act and Access to Information, Protection of Privacy Act and Electoral Laws Amendment Act are now part of the country's laws following assent by the President," The Herald newspaper said. The revised media laws provide for the reconstitution of a government media commission that licences journalists and news organisations, while the amendments to the security law compel the police to give valid reason for banning a rally.
The changes were passed by parliament as part of a deal between the ruling party and the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change. In the ongoing negotiations, the MDC had expressed concern about the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, Broadcasting Services Act, Electoral Act and Public Order and Security Act. Critics said the media and security laws were used by Mugabe to stifle opposition to his 27-year rule.
Before, the talks between the ruling Zanu PF and the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to resolve the current crisis had collapsed - after President Robert Mugabe rejected South African President Thabo Mbeki’s last-ditch bid to crack the deadlock. A transitional constitution and the election date have been the main sticking points. "Mugabe refused to accept a new constitution before the elections and to delay the polls in order to implement the final agreement," a source who was in the meeting said. "Practically, this means the talks have collapsed." (Zimbabwe Online, South Africa/Rts)

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