Zimbabwe | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe

Freedom of the Press 2005

2005 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

Freedom of expression and of the press continues to be severely limited, owing in large part to a draconian legal framework that inhibits free operation of the media. The enactment in 2002 of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), which requires all journalists and media companies to register with the government-controlled Media and Information Commission (MIC), gave the information minister sweeping powers to decide who can work as a journalist in Zimbabwe. In September 2003, the Supreme Court ruled that the country's only independent daily, the Daily News, was not registered under 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. Despite a subsequent high court ruling allowing the newspaper to resume publication, the MIC refused to grant the Daily News a license under AIPPA, and it remained closed at year's end. In February 2004, the Supreme Court rejected a constitutional challenge brought by the Independent Journalists Association of Zimbabwe regarding the legality of certain sections of AIPPA. In November, the parliament passed an amendment to AIPPA that imposed harsher penalties, including up to two years of jail time, on journalists operating without accreditation.

In addition, 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 harass journalists. Section 15 of POSA and Section 80 of AIPPA criminalize the publication of "inaccurate" information, and both laws were used to arrest and prosecute journalists throughout 2004. Independent media outlets and their staff are routinely subjected to verbal intimidation, physical attacks, arrest and detention, and financial pressure at the hands of the police, authorities, and supporters of the ruling party. Foreign journalists are regularly denied visas to file stories from Zimbabwe, and local correspondents for foreign publications, particularly those whose reporting has portrayed the regime in an unfavorable light, have been refused accreditation or threatened with lawsuits and deportation.

The government, through the Mass Media Trust holding company, controls several major daily newspapers, including The Chronicle and The Herald; coverage in these news outlets consists of favorable portrayals of President Robert Mugabe and the ruling ZANU-PF party and attacks on perceived critics of the regime such as the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, other antigovernment groups, and foreign governments. In February, three journalists employed by The Herald were dismissed for working with the Voice of America news service, a collaboration that the MIC said endangered "national interests and security." Several independent weeklies continue to publish, although many journalists practice extensive self-censorship. In June, authorities suspended the semi-independent Tribune, owned by a ruling party member, after its coverage became increasingly critical of government policies. The state-controlled Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) runs all broadcast media, which are seen as mouthpieces of the regime, and the prohibitive costs of satellite services that provide international news programming place them out of reach for most Zimbabweans. Broadcasting licenses have been denied to privately owned radio stations. Although the government announced in October that the opposition MDC would have access to the state-owned media prior to the March 2005 parliamentary elections, the ZBC has refused to air MDC advertisements and provides inadequate coverage of MDC positions and statements. Access to the Internet is unrestricted, although the law allows the government to monitor e-mail content.