The War on the Media in Zimbabwe
Last night I listened to SW Radio at 18.30 hrs. For those who are not
familiar with SW Radio this is a small radio station broadcasting out
London on short and medium wave to Zimbabwe. For many of us the slot
18.30 to 19.30 hrs has been a lifeline of news about what is happening
Zimbabwe. This is the time when they flight their nightly "Newsreel"
At first I thought there was no signal, but then I was able to pick it
a faint signal right next to what sounded like a muffled roar. We were
to hear the first 20 minutes or so and then it simply became impossible
make out the voices over what was a continuous stream of noise.
SW is being jammed - very professionally - by transmitters located at
Gweru transmitters of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation. I
the equipment comes from Iran and has just been installed.
This just another example of the war on the media being waged by the
led regime in Zimbabwe.
Yesterday the Supreme Court finally handed down its judgment a year
they had sat to consider the banning of the Daily News. The Daily News
established 4 years ago in an effort to open up the newspaper industry
allow greater freedom of expression. It rapidly attracted some of the
brightest minds in the industry and was soon outselling its State
rivals across the country.
They faced threats of many kinds - vendors were beaten up and the
the paper burned. The presses printing the paper were blown up with
explosives on two occasions and the staffs were threatened. An
attempt was made on the editor.
Then finally the regime decided that these piecemeal approaches were
sufficient and the Minister of Justice brought out a new draft Bill -
innocuously sounding "Access to Information and Protection of Privacy
In fact this was simply an Act of Parliament designed to close down any
media - electronic or written, which was in any way a threat to the
The Daily News was at the top of that list, as was the local initiators
SW went on to establish itself outside the country - the Daily News did
have that option. They were soon closed down and have been fighting the
legal restrictions ever since. This fight has cost its sponsors many
hundreds of millions of dollars in legal and other costs. Because of
determination the Daily News remains ready to go within 48 hours of
allowed back on the streets.
So when we heard that the SADC States were going to see to it that the
elections on the 31st were going to be free and fair - we assumed this
that the regime here would allow the Daily back on the streets. When it
leaked that the Supreme Court was going to rule in favor of the Daily
reinforced our feelings. But it was not to be - yesterday the Courts
that the original banning order was not right and that the Daily News
have been licensed. Then they sent the decision back to the same body
originally banned the Daily News and has just banned another weekly.
The war on the media does not end there - any employee of the State
controlled media - 7 newspapers and 4 radio stations and the sole
TV station, who shows any signs of independence or professionalism is
immediately fired or worse. These people live in constant fear for
jobs and careers. The weekly Financial Gazette - long a critic of the
was quietly taken over by financial interests close to the ruling
The only other independent weeklies that remained operating are the
on Sunday and the Independent on Fridays. These are expensive and have
limited circulation and have been very careful not to step outside the
invisible boundaries that mark regime media restrictions.
The regime has threatened Botswana for its perceived support for the
independent radio broadcasts that are coming into Zimbabwe. The main
being SW Radio - now broadcasting on medium wave via a regional
the Voice of America Studio 7 broadcasts each evening for one hour in
The propaganda machine is massive and constant. All media references to
activities of the MDC are negative and hostile. The position of the
party is constantly portrayed and all news and current affairs
is treated as a political campaign tool. Any positive coverage of the
such as the MDC campaign launch, which was covered at the start of this
campaign - has an electrifying effect on the country!
Even in the commercial printing industry there has been a campaign to
MDC activity. The company Daily Print, in Bulawayo was firebombed when
was discovered that they were printing for the MDC. Since then all
commercial printers report visits by the CIO and threats that there
retaliation if they accept work from the MDC.
I do not know how you would interpret this situation? Thabo Mbeki says
this is not an impediment to a free and fair election. I find that an
astonishing claim. How does he expect the MDC to address the issues and
campaign if they are virtually totally excluded from the media, except
The election on the 31st simply cannot be regarded as being free and
It will be a carefully orchestrated display of election fraud and
manipulation by a regime that came to power on the back of a global
to win one man one vote for Zimbabwe. South Africa and her regional
associates will be associated with this exercise and will be to blame
Zimbabwe continues its slide into anarchy and human misery.
Bulawayo, 16th March 2005