Zimbabwe | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe

Freedom of the Press 2004

2004 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

89

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

34

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

25

Under President Robert Mugabe, freedom of the press continues to be severely limited. Authorities have broadly interpreted a range of restrictive legislation--including the Official Secrets Act, the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), and criminal defamation laws--in order to prosecute journalists. In addition, the 2002 Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) gives the information minister sweeping powers to decide who can work as a journalist in Zimbabwe and requires all journalists and media companies to register with the government-controlled Media and Information Commission (MIC). In September 2003, the Supreme Court ruled that the country's only independent daily, the Daily News, was not registered under the AIPPA and was thus illegal, prompting an armed takeover of the Daily News facilities in which the newspaper was closed down, its equipment confiscated, and up to 20 journalists detained. The government and police defied a subsequent high court ruling allowing the newspaper to resume publication, and the MIC refused to grant the Daily News a license under the AIPPA. Immediately following an October 2003 administrative court ruling that granted the newspaper the necessary license, police once again raided the Daily News offices, arresting 18 journalists and administrators. The government did not allow the Daily News to resume operations for the rest of the year. Section 15 of the POSA and Section 80 of the AIPPA criminalize the publication of "inaccurate" information, and both laws were used to arrest and harass journalists throughout 2003. This was in spite of the fact that, in a pyrrhic victory for press freedom, in May 2003 the Supreme Court had declared Section 80 of the AIPPA unconstitutional. There are no privately owned broadcast media outlets. State-controlled radio, television, and newspapers are all seen as mouthpieces of the government; they cover opposition activities only in a negative light. Independent media outlets and their staff are subjected to considerable verbal intimidation, physical attacks, arrest and detention, and financial pressure at the hands of the police, authorities, and supporters of the ruling party. Journalists are routinely barred from covering government activities or those of the opposition. Foreign correspondents based in the country, particularly those whose reporting has portrayed the regime in an unfavorable light, have been refused accreditation or threatened with lawsuits and deportation. In May 2003, Andrew Meldrum, an American correspondent for the United Kingdom-based Guardian, was declared a "prohibited immigrant" and ordered to leave Zimbabwe.