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

    Native Americans Ask: What About Our Water Supply?

    They say they have been facing a dangerous water contaminant for decades - uranium – but the problem has received far less attention than water contamination by lead in Flint, Michigan

    Pakistan's President Urges Nation Not to Celebrate Valentine's Day

    Mamnoon Hussain criticizes Valentine's Day, which falls on Sunday this year, as a Western import that threatens to undermine the Islamic values of Pakistan

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.