The signing of the GPA in 2008 and the subsequent formation of an inclusive government in February 2009 brought optimism that finally the operating environment would improve, but three years down the line, the media is still under siege with the harassment of journalists increasing by day.
A number of media practitioners were arrested recently, among them Media Monitoring Project co-ordinator, Andy Moyse, who was picked up by the police last week.
Two of his Gwanda staffers, Fadzai December and Molly Chimhanda, together with MMPZ’s public information rights forum committee member, Gilbert Mabusa, are currently languishing in prison after they were arrested on charges of holding an unsanctioned civic education meeting.
The arrests came hardly a week after Daily News editor, Stanley Gama and reporter Xolisani Ncube, were picked up by the police. The Standard Editor Nevanji Madanhire and reporter Nqaba Matshazi were also recently arrested on charges of criminal defamation.
Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Zimbabwe national director, Nhlahla Ngwenya said the renewed media crackdown should be viewed within the context of the increasing talk of an election in the coming months. Elections have increasingly become notorious for an upsurge in gross violations of human rights in the country.
Ngwenya said the strategy was to harass media practitioners and organisations by selectively applying the country’s offensive media laws with the aim of intimidating journalists to self-censor themselves, especially on issues that expose the excesses of those in power.
“By harassing the media, those behind this strategy hope to block unfavourable information from reaching the public domain,” Ngwenya said. He said the sustainability of the newly licensed media organisations, which the coalition government touts as one of evident achievements of their reconstruction programme, will also not be guaranteed under the current repressive media laws.
Obnoxious laws must go— MISA
The Media Institute of Southern Africa has always demanded a complete overhaul of the country’s media legislative environment.
It has argued that for as long as the obnoxious laws such as criminal defamation, Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa), Public Order and Security Act (Posa) and the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) exist, media freedom will remain an illusion in the country.