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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid