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Zimbabwe: Press Freedom
Zimbabwe: Press Freedom
Date distributed (ymd): 020116
Document reposted by Africa Action
Africa Policy Electronic Distribution List: an information
service provided by AFRICA ACTION (incorporating the Africa
Policy Information Center, The Africa Fund, and the American
Committee on Africa). Find more information for action for
Africa at http://www.africaaction.org
Region: Southern Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +security/peace+
Press reports from the summit of the Southern Africa Development
Community (SADC) just concluded in Malawi say Zimbabwe's President
Robert Mugabe faced strong criticism behind closed doors from
regional leaders. Public statements, however, expressed confidence
in Mugabe's pledges to ensure fair elections and permit election
monitors and media coverage.
Since the beginning of the year, Zimbabwe's parliament has passed
two of three acts designed to silence opposition in the run-up to
the March 2002 presidential election. The Public Order and Security
Bill, among other provisions, provides for imprisonment for anyone
engendering "hostility" towards the president, while the General
Laws amendment act bans foreign and independent election monitors.
Consideration of the "Access to Information and Protection of
Privacy Bill" imposing new restrictions on journalists was
postponed, but is expected soon.
The full texts of the "Access to Information and Protection of
Privacy Bill" and the "Public Order and Security Bill" are
available at http://www.kubatana.net, the web site of the NGO
Network Alliance Project, an on-line community for Zimbabwean
activists, along with additional background information.
This posting includes several documents from the Media Institute
of Southern Africa (MISA), focusing particularly on the situation
of the media.
Other recent statements and reports about Zimbabwe
(1) SADC And Harare
Congress of South African Trade Unions (Johannesburg)
PRESS RELEASE, January 15, 2002
(2) International Crisis Group, "Zimbabwe's Election: The Stakes
for Southern Africa," January 11, 2002
(3) SAIIA Warns of War in Zimbabwe
South African Press Association (Johannesburg)
[Statement by South African Institute of International Affairs
deputy chairman Moeletsi Mbeki]
December 9, 2001
For earlier analyses and links, see:
Zimbabwe Alert (Press Statement)
While no other country in southern Africa faces such intense
government action against independent media as Zimbabwe, the
atmosphere for press freedom faces difficulties in almost every
country (see action alerts on the Misanet web site -
http://www.misa.org). Another posting also sent out today
refers to current developments in Mozambique, a little more than a
year after the assassination of investigative journalist Carlos
Cardoso in November 2000.
Zimbabwe Alert (Petition)N
Petition by Zimbabwean media organisations
15 January 2002
Information distributed by:
Zoe Titus, MISA Researcher
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)
Private Bag 13386 Windhoek, Namibia
Tel. +264 61 232975, Fax. 248016
Six representatives of media organisations in Zimbabwe including,
MISA-Zimbabwe Director, Sarah Chiumbu, The Zimbabwe Union of
Journalists, Secretary General, Basildon Peta, Eunice Mafundikwa,
Chairperson, Federation of African Media Women of Zimbabwe, Abel
Mutsakani, President, Independent Journalists Association of
Zimbabwe, Andrew Meldrum, Foreign Correspondents Association of
Zimbabwe, and the Chairperson of the Harare Journalists Press
Club, Luke Tamborinyoka presented a fresh petition to the
parliament of Zimbabwe on the Access to Information and Protection
of Privacy Bill. The Bill was set to be passed today (Tuesday,
The representatives of the group were however denied access to see
the Speaker of Parliament Emmerson Mnangagwa and the leader of the
House, Justice Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, by the parliament
security. The security said that the organisations had not made
any appointment to see the Speaker. Attempts to explain that it
was not necessary to make an appointment in order to present a
petition were however met with deaf ears. They however managed to
see and present a petition to the opposition Movement for
Democratic Change, leader in the House Gibson Sibanda and MDC
Chief Whip Innocent Gonese.
Journalists intending to stage a night vigil at parliament were
yesterday (Monday, January 14) chased away from the parliament
building by the police on the grounds that the building was a high
security and protected area. Find below the petition sent to
Presented by Media Organisations to the Parliament of Zimbabwe
Date: 15 January 2002
We the undersigned organisations completely reject the Access to
Information and Protection of Privacy Bill due to be passed by
Parliament today (Tuesday, January 15). We are asking Parliament
to defer the passage of this Bill pending consultations with all
We reject the Bill because if passed into law the profession of
journalism will be virtually impossible to practice. We take note
of the fact that the Bill contains a number of unconstitutional
provisions that infringe on our rights as citizens of Zimbabwe and
as journalists in particular.
We also bring it to the attention of parliament that no
consultations took place when this Bill was being drafted. We are
agreed that if parliament passes this law against the wishes of
stakeholders, we will be left with no other alternative, but to
defy the new law.
Sarah Chiumbu: MISA-Zimbabwe
Eunice Mafundikwa: Federation of African Media Women of Zimbabwe
Basildon Peta: Zimbabwe Union of Journalists
Abel Mutsakani: Independent Journalists Association of Zimbabwe
Andrew Meldrum: Foreign Ccorespondents Association of Zimbabwe
Luke Tamborinyoka: Harare Journalist Press Club
Army General warns independent media and foreign journalists
January 10, 2002
Zimbabwe's army General, Vitalis Zvinavashe, has warned the
independent and foreign correspondents of dire consequences if
they continue to report negatively about the Zimbabwe government,
human right abuses and happenings in the security forces.
Addressing a press conference attended by Zimbabwe's top military,
police and intelligence brass, Zvinavashe said the independent
media and foreign correspondents are involved in a campaign to
demonise the security forces there by undermining the security and
peace of Zimbabwe.
Zvinavashe said over the past two years there has been an increase
in speculative, imaginary and false articles by both the
independent media and foreign journalists. "The statements have
caused insecurity, uncertainty, confusion and tarnished the
credibility of the country's security arms," said Zvinavashe.
He said that there is need for the media to separate between
political and security institutions. Zvinavashe cited examples of
what he claimed were false reports such as the alleged looting of
resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo by the Zimbabwe
government and top military officers including himself,
allegations of political victimisation of prison officers who
support the opposition, and the story on the assassination attempt
of the Editor In Chief of "The Daily News" by an Intelligence
Officer, Bernard Masala. "Whilst it is known that media houses are
in business, they must not generate profits out of false reports
that discredit security organisations which are sensitive by
nature and have rights like any other institutions," said
"In these cited stories no iota of evidence was provided. We are
therefore advising all citizens of Zimbabweans that the full force
of the law will meet any reports and actions designed to create
instability in Zimbabwe. This will include enforcement, where it
is deemed necessary. Individuals will be answerable for their
actions," said Zvinavashe.
"The law will take its place to ensure that Zimbabwe's
independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty - which to
large extent depend on upholding the values and good name of the
security organisations - are preserved," said Zvinavashe.
Zvinavashe said that there was therefore a need to respect the
security arms, which were constitutionally established to
safeguard Zimbabwe's hard won independence, as a failure to do so
would result in instability, lawlessness and ultimately anarchy.
At the same press conference Zvinavashe announced that the army
would not support any president who does not suit their
requirements. In apparent reference to the leader of the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change, Morgan Tsvangirai,
Zvinavashe said the army would not accept, support and salute any
president who did not fight in the war of independence. "We wish
to make it very clear to all Zimbabwean citizens that the security
organisations will only stand in support of those political
leaders that will pursue Zimbabwean values, traditions and
beliefs, for which thousands of lives were lost, in pursuit of
Zimbabwe's hard-won independence, sovereignty, territorial
integrity and national interests," said Zvinavashe.
"To this end let it be known that the highest office in the office
is a straight jacket, whose occupant must observe the objectives
of the liberation struggle. We will there fore not accept let
alone support anyone or salute anyone with a different agenda that
threatens the very existence of our sovereignty our country and
our people," said Zvinavashe.
Draconian media bill passed in Zimbabwe
December 3, 2001
The government of Zimbabwe has approved the Access to Information
and Protection of Privacy Bill, which seeks to regulate the
operations of the media in Zimbabwe and purportedly give access to
information held by public bodies.
According to "The Herald" newspaper, the proposed Bill will
protect personal privacy and establish a media information
commission to regulate the media industry.
In recommending the Bill, the department of Information and
publicity said the media should be accountable to society and has
to be judged on how well they were conveying messages without
distortions or interfering with the right to freedom of expression
given to the people in the constitution.
The proposed Bill has a number of restrictive and punitive clauses
on the media. Journalists will be required to be licensed and
those who breach a planned code of conduct will have the licence
revoked. The media Commission will be responsible for issuing out
certificates of registration to media houses and journalists which
are renewable annually.
The commission will keep a register of all journalists and to be
registered one must possess the prescribed qualifications and be
a citizen of and based in Zimbabwe. The commission will have the
power to discipline journalists after affording them a "fair
hearing". The Bill says that the commission may delete a
journalist's name from the register, order his/her suspension for
a specified period and impose conditions it deems fit subject to
which he/she shall be allowed to practice.
Th commission can order a to pay a fine of not more than Z$50 000
(US$937,5), caution him/her or refer the matter for prosecution.
The commission will ensure people have access to information and
control of mass media services and receive and act upon comments
from the public about the administration and performance of the
media. Journalists shall be deemed to have abused journalistic
privilege and committed an offence if, except where they are
employed in a news agency, they rewrite a story that has already
been published by another publication without the permission of
The Bill makes it a crime to write for another publication(s) that
do not employ you unless you are a freelance journalist.
Journalists will be charged for deliberately spreading information
that discredits a person or category of people on the basis of
sex, race, age, nationality and language, religion, profession,
place of residence and work and political conviction. It is also
an offence to conceal, falsify or fabricate information, spread
rumours, falsehoods or causing alarm and despondency under the
guise of authentic reports.
Penalties of those found guilty of any of the offences are a fine
of up Z$100 000 (US$1 875,05) or two year's imprisonment. The Bill
gives people the right, at no cost, to demand correction of
untruthful information that denigrates their honour and dignity.
Publishers will be required to publish the correction in the next
issue after receipt of a demand for correction. Corrections may be
turned down if the demand or text of correction represents an
abuse of the freedom of mass communication as set out in the Bill.
The Bill also gives people the right of reply if a media
organization publishes information that is not true or impinges on
their rights or lawful interests. The right to reply shall be
given the same prominence as the offending story. Foreign media
organizations will be set up only with the permission of the
Minister and only journalists accredited in terms of the Bill
shall be foreign correspondents. This means that all foreign
correspondents will need to be Zimbabwean citizens.
The Bill will establish a Media and Information Fund administered
by the Media Commission to standardise media services and maintain
high standards of quality in the provision of such services. It
will assist in training media personnel and promote research and
development in information and mass media as well as public
awareness on the right of access to information and protection of
privacy. Mass media owners will pay the prescribed annual
contribution to the fund.
Commenting on the Bill the department of information and publicity
in the president's office said that there was presently a collapse
of professional and ethical standards in the media. "This resulted
in the invasion of privacy which was evident in the number of
defamation cases which members of the public were bringing before
the courts," said the Department. "Of late there have been cases
of intrusion of personal privacy by the media through the invasion
of personal correspondence, private family affairs and
trespassing by way of taking photographs of persons, or their
properties for no apparent reasons of public interest of
journalistic purposes," said the department.
The Bill will make public bodies accountable by giving the public
the right to request correction of misrepresented personal
information. "It is necessary to make public bodies accountable to
members of the public because information is an integral part of
the democratic process and is necessary for public
accountability," said the Department of Information and Publicity.
The Bill lists, as protected information, cabinet deliberations,
policy advice by a head of public body to the president, cabinet
minister or public body. Information that may be harmful to the
law enforcement process and national security is protected as
well. Public bodies are also barred from releasing information
that relates to inter governmental relations, financial or
economic interests of a public body.
The department of Information and Publicity said that the media
has failed to voluntary structure itself as evidenced by the
absence of a voluntary media council and the polarisation in the
media. The Department said that there is wide polarisation in the
media, which calls for a statutory media council. Members of the
public who will have been aggrieved by any reports can make
complaints to the council or to the Media Commission said the
Department. Media owners who are required to register with the
commission will have their licences revoked if they break the code
The Access to information and protection of privacy Bill comes
against a background of another media repressive Bill, in the name
of the Public Order and Security Bill. Although the bill is called
the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy bill, it is
clear that everything in it concerns punishing journalists and
restricting their operations.
MISA-Zimbabwe made a submission to the department but none of the
submitted information was ever used. The Bill marks yet another
concerted effort by the Zimbabwe government to silence the
independent media once and for all. The polarisation that the
Department refers to is largely a creation of the Zimbabwe
In a meeting between MISA-Zimbabwe, independent media
representatives and the Minister of Information and Publicity in
January 2001, the minister clearly stated that government
controlled media would not become part of the Voluntary Council.
MISA-Zimbabwe, the Independent Journalists Association of
Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Union of Journalists, Federation of African
Media women and the National Association of Freelance Journalists
are in the process of setting up a voluntary media council. It is
important to note that the Bill does not mention anything about
the obligations of government departments to release information
to the media and members of the public.
It is equally not clear on the relationship between the media
council and the Media Commission that the bill intends to the set
up. The rational of setting up a council as the Department said is
to make the media more accountable and make redress more
affordable as legal fees are exorbitant. It is however not clear
how the hefty fines that is proposed would make any difference
with the legal fees that the media have to contend with in
Zimbabwe. It is true, as the department has said that the media is
facing a lot of defamation cases. What is important to note is
that the majority of the defamation cases are from government
Ministers, including Moyo himself and political party activists.
If this Bill is to pass into law, the independent media in
Zimbabwe might as well be facing its last breath.
This material is being reposted for wider distribution by
Africa Action (incorporating the Africa Policy Information
Center, The Africa Fund, and the American Committee on Africa).
Africa Action's information services provide accessible
information and analysis in order to promote U.S. and
international policies toward Africa that advance economic,
political and social justice and the full spectrum of human rights.