Kubatana.net ~ an online community of Zimbabwean activists

Prospects and hopes for freedom of expression in all media in Zimbabwe

TOP del.icio.us

Prospects of seeing a better Zimbabwe where people can freely express themselves as guaranteed in the new Constitution are not yet certain as the new government gets down to business. Before we set high expectations we just have to go down memory lane and dwell a lot on the legacy of the government, which has just regained power. The love-hate relationship between the ZANU-PF lead government and the media dates back to the time when a litany of bad laws were crafted to criminalize freedom of expression and the return of the chief architect of some these laws to head the Media and Information ministry has sent a strong signal of what to expect in the next five years especially his recent comments in the media. During the tenure of the re-appointed Minister of Information we saw a plethora of bad laws, which curtailed and inhibited freedom of expression at same time also criminalizing the journalism profession.

Laws such as POSA, AIPPA, BAZ, Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act and Official Secrets Act have been used in the past to criminalize the profession of journalism and most of these laws where crafted during the time when ZANU-PF felt threatened by the rising popularity of the opposition parties. A record increase in the use of insult targeting opposition supporters was recorded during the recently held 2013 harmonized election campaigns. Excessive monitoring has also spread to cover areas such the cyber-space.
Meanwhile Zimbabweans have come up with various and alternative ways of expressing themselves; the sprouting up of graffiti on walls, blogs, radio and television stations broadcasting from outside the country.

Media experts weighed in on the “Prospects for freedom of expression in all media” under the new government at a discussion hosted by Zimbabwe Democracy Institute. One of the panelists from the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe asked, “since recent the election saw ZANU-PF sweeping to a two-thirds majority in Parliament but is the threat gone that warrants the removal of bad laws, which makes it easy to charge someone with defamation or insult?” To a large extent the existence of a biased state broadcaster ensures that not every one is heard but only a selected few voices. Prospects could be high to see the licensing of community radio stations, television and the transformation of Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) from being a state broadcaster to a public broadcaster and the lack of it will just result in an increase in the number of people getting arrested for seeking alternatives to freely express themselves.
But since this is a party on the road to mend relations maybe some media reforms could be on the cards as the ZANU-PF lead government embarks on a rebranding exercise.

Comments are closed.