Zimbabwe Government Official Makes Veiled Threats Towards Media
Hostile comments directed at independent media by Zimbabwe’s Minister of Information on World Press Freedom Day further illustrate the precarious state of freedom of expression in the country. Speaking at a Zimbabwe Media Commission function in Harare, Information Minister Webster Shamu lambasted members of Zimbabwe’s media for reporting on stories that he deemed “anti-African” and “anti-Zimbabwe.” Minister Shamu later threatened to “revert to the regulatory regime of 2001–2007,” a volatile period characterized by government-sanctioned harassment, intimidation, and extreme violence against independent and freelance journalists.
These thinly veiled threats from a high-ranking Zimbabwean official will undoubtedly have a chilling effect on the country’s media in the lead-up to the constitutional referendum and national elections anticipated to take place in the coming year. Freedom House remains extremely concerned about the growing antagonism by the government toward journalists and urges a comprehensive reform of the country’s repressive media laws.
The media landscape in Zimbabwe is bleak. While state-sponsored harassment of journalists has slightly decreased from previous years, the government continues to use draconian media laws to target journalists critical of the Mugabe regime. A range of oppressive laws remain on the books, the most infamous of which include the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy (AIPPA), the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), and the Criminal Law Act, all of which severely inhibit the ability of journalists to conduct their legitimate work. Since September 2011, 6 Zimbabwean journalists have been charged under criminal law for defamation. The ZANU PF dominated government has also blatantly manipulated the issuance of new media licenses, effectively ensuring that the state-run media maintains a monopoly of both the broadcast and print media. Zimbabwe ranked 172 out of 197 countries surveyed in Freedom House’s 2012 Freedom of the Press report, the worst overall ranking in the southern Africa region.
Freedom in the World 2011: Zimbabwe
Freedom of the Press 2011: Zimbabwe