A new bill that was recently passed by the Zimbabwean Parliament has raised concerns about freedom of expression.
The bill, known as the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Bill, criminalizes any citizen who meets with foreign diplomats or officials if the State suspects that sanctions may have been discussed.
The bill also gives the government broad powers to prosecute anyone who is seen as undermining the country or making false statements to paint a negative picture of the country to foreign governments.
Critics of the bill say that it is a draconian attempt to silence dissent and that it will have a chilling effect on freedom of expression in Zimbabwe.
“This bill is a direct attack on our right to free speech,” said Chris Mhike, a media defense lawyer. “It is a clear attempt by the government to silence its critics and to control the flow of information.”
Mhike said that the bill is also unconstitutional because it violates the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by the Zimbabwean Constitution.
“The government has no right to tell us who we can and cannot talk to,” Mhike said. “This bill is a clear violation of our fundamental rights.”
The bill is now set to be debated in the Senate. It is unclear whether the Senate will approve the bill, but if it does, it is likely to face legal challenges.
In the meantime, the bill has already had a chilling effect on freedom of expression in Zimbabwe. Many people are now afraid to speak out against the government or to criticize its policies.
The passage of the Patriot Bill is a worrying development for Zimbabwe. It is a clear sign that the government is becoming increasingly intolerant of dissent. If the bill is not challenged and overturned, it will have a devastating impact on freedom of expression in Zimbabwe.