The Freedom of Expression Institute is pleased with and welcomes the
ruling by Zimbabwe’s High Court on Thursday, 25th January, that the
Zimbabwean government’s termination of the citizenship of publisher
Trevor Ncube was “unlawful” and “null and void”, according to a media release.
Ncube is the owner of the South African Mail & Guardian as well as of two Zimbabwean newspapers: the Zimbabwean Independent and The Standard. These are the only independent newspapers still publishing in Zimbabwe.

Earlier this month, the Zimbabwean Registrar-General, Tobalwa Mudede, withdrew Ncube’s passport and terminated his citizenship. This prompted the publisher to challenge Mudede’s actions in the High Court. The Court’s ruling is relevant not only to Ncube but also to hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans who live in fear of having their citizenship revoked by the Registrar General’s office because their parents were born outside Zimbabwe.

The FXI has been concerned that if Ncube’s appeal against the Mudede’s decision had failed, it would result not only in his not being able to return to his country of birth (Ncube was in South Africa at the time the matter was heard in court) but that it could also spell the end of the only independent media voices in Zimbabwe. Fortunately, the High Court has demonstrated that there is judicial independence in Zimbabwe. We hope that this judgement will mean that independent media voices in Zimbabwe will be strengthened.

Zimbabwe is just one of the countries in Africa where media freedom is under sustained and consistent threat and where the liberty of individual journalists, editors and publishers is also in danger. This state of media freedom on the continent is of ongoing concern for the FXI. Even in South Africa, the media – particularly smaller community media – faces various threats to its independence and its very survival by threats of court action and other forms of intimidation.

For more information, call Jane Duncan (082 786 3600) or Na’eem Jeenah (084 574 2674).