News / Africa

Zimbabwe Rights Groups Fear for Media Freedom Before Election

Election campaign posters are pictured near Zimbabweans walking on a street blocked by uncollected garbage in Harare, July 17, 2013.
Election campaign posters are pictured near Zimbabweans walking on a street blocked by uncollected garbage in Harare, July 17, 2013.
Anita Powell
Zimbabwe’s media landscape has grown in the past year to include several independent media groups that are joining the powerful state broadcaster in reporting on next week’s election. But rights groups say they are still seeing “low-level repression” of journalists.  

Rights groups and media watchers agree that Zimbabweans will have more media choices during this election than in previous years.

But more, says the Committee to Protect Journalists, does not necessarily mean better.

In the past 18 months, the government has licensed two new radio stations, says CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Sue Valentine. But, she said, those voices are largely drowned out by state media, which she said clearly favors President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party. Mr. Mugabe will lead his party's ticket on the July 31 election.

“So there are some chinks in the general armor of silence," she said. "But state media does remain dominant in terms of its reach around the country.  ... If the state broadcaster, if it were behaving according to journalistic ethics, if it were behaving more more like a public broadcaster and offering equal time or proportionate time to different parties, I think then it would not be a problem ...  But it is because you have such a slanted state media that I think the problem exists.”

Mugabe, who is 89, has led Zimbabwe since its independence in 1980. He is running again, though a recently approved constitution limits him to just two more five-year terms.

The 2008 elections were marred by violence, which rights groups largely attributed to Mugabe’s security forces. Mugabe agreed to form a power-sharing government with the opposition; with this vote, he seeks to free himself from that troubled pact.

Valentine said the group’s concerns are not only about the government: she cited reports of intimidation and attacks by what appear to be opposition supporters.

Human Rights Watch’s Africa Advocacy Director Tiseke Kasambala said while the media landscape does look better than it has in the past, the rights watchdog is still concerned. She echoed concerns the state media reports more on the ruling party than on the opposition, and said her group had also documented the opposition-linked attacks.

She also said that years of intimidation and harassment have led many independent journalists to self-censor.

“While there has been an improvement in media freedoms in the country, this is not to say that concerns to not remain around the ongoing low-level repression and intimidation against journalists, especially with restrictive laws hanging over their heads,” said Kasambala.

Valentine said the need for an unfettered media goes beyond just one election.

“Zimbabwe used to be a thriving economy, an exporter of grain to the region, and this has all disappeared over the last 10 years, tragically," she said. "And a critical media that can be saying, ‘what has happened?  Where is this money going?  How is our economy being managed?  What are the choices that citizens have around them?"

She said, "People do not have jobs, why is this the case?’ Those are the kind of questions that a critical media should be able to ask, and a responsive leader would want to hear, in order to address these things and to govern in the interests of citizens, as opposed to in the interests of the elite.”

Without many of those questions asked or answered elections will proceed on Wednesday.

You May Like

Video British Fighters On Frontline of ISIS Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Multimedia Hit Song Delivers Ebola Message in Liberia

'Ebola in Town' has danceable beat, while also delivering serious message about avoiding infection More

Video New Technology Gives Surgeons Unprecedented Views of Patients’ Bodies

Technology offers real-time, interactive, medical visualization and is multi-dimensional More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid