news analysis advocacy
tips on searching

Search AfricaFocus and 9 Partner Sites



Visit the AfricaFocus
Country Pages

Burkina Faso
Cape Verde
Central Afr. Rep.
Congo (Brazzaville)
Congo (Kinshasa)
Côte d'Ivoire
Equatorial Guinea
São Tomé
Sierra Leone
South Africa
South Sudan
Western Sahara

Get AfricaFocus Bulletin by e-mail!

Print this page

Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

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

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

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, 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 - 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.

+++++++++++++++++end profile++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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, January 15).

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 parliament.

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 necessary stakeholders.

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.

Signed By

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


Zimbabwe Alert
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 Zvinavashe.

"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.


Zimbabwe AlertN
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 publication.

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 of conduct.

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 government.

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.

URL for this file: