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Africa News of Friday, 17 April 2020


ZBC sued for overlooking persons with disability during coronavirus reportage

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Three local groups representing persons with visual and hearing impairments have taken the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) to court seeking to have the national broadcaster compelled to broadcast coronavirus information in formats they could access.

The groups include the Center for Disability and Development, Deaf Zimbabwe Trust and Zimbabwe National League of The Blind.

In their court application, the groups argued that the rights of persons with disability continue to be infringed by government and ZBC during the current public health emergency.

The groups insist there was no access to information in a format that is accessible to persons with disabilities, notably those with visual and hearing impairments.

The applicants are represented by Denford Halimani and Doug Coltart of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.

In their court challenge, the groups argue that given the state of public health emergency and the national lockdown, there is need for ZBC to have sign language as part of its programming.

This, they say, will enable the disadvantaged communities to remain fully informed about the coronavirus pandemic as well as continuous changes effected on citizen compliance with the national lockdown.

The three organisations said there was the need for all other official communications by government ministries involved in the fight against coronavirus to be produced in formats which are accessible to the communities they represent.

They want the use of Braille pamphlets, audio versions, large print versions, and digital readable-text versions of official communications.

The applicants insist the absence of materials friendly to their unique conditions was an infringement on rights to equality, access to information and other constitutional rights.

They also feel this posed a grave danger to the disadvantaged communities, their beneficiaries and the general public who may be unknowingly exposed to the deadly disease.

The applicants want the High Court to order ZBC to immediately provide sign language and/or captions in all its content on Zimbabwe Television (ZTV) pertaining to the coronavirus epidemic during and after the national lockdown for the benefit of the deaf and hard of hearing people in Zimbabwe.