State of the media in Southern Africa - 2004

By Mathew Takaona
Mathew Takaona is an award-winning Zimbabwean senior journalist and president of the
Zimbabwe Union of Journalists.
Government on the warpath
Zimbabweans entered 2004 optimistic that the Supreme Court would quash sections of the
Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), which had led to the closure of
the vibrant, privately-owned Daily News and Daily News on Sunday.
This followed a protracted legal battle between the government and its publishers over the fate of
the two publications, which were published for the last time on 12 September 2003 following a
Supreme Court judgment which ruled in favour of the government-controlled Media and Information
Commission (MIC). The MIC had declared that the two publications were operating illegally.
Of the state-sanctioned repressions against media freedom, the closure of the Daily News
ranks as the most brutal given the paper’s huge popularity as an alternative national must-read
source of information.
That hope was, however, dashed when the government went on the warpath. Government
officials tightened the screws of AIPPA and went on to close the privately-owned Tribune
weekly publication in June. In doing so, they disregarded the outstanding matter between
Associated Newspapers - publishers of the Daily News and Daily News on Sunday, and the MIC.
A siege mentality
This siege mentality spread to the State media when the Minister of Information and Publicity
in the President’s office, Professor Jonathan Moyo, declared that after dealing with “foreignfunded” papers such as the Daily News, its guns were now trained on internal enemies within
the government-controlled media.
Moyo was true to his word. Robson Sharuko, Tendai Ndemera and Rex Mphisa, sports editor,
senior reporter and assistant news editor, respectively, of the State-run Herald were fired from
the national daily without appearing before any disciplinary hearing - as they should have in
terms of Zimpapers’s code of conduct.
A few weeks later, Matthew Takaona, an acting news editor with The Sunday Mail and president
of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists, was fired for addressing journalists from The Daily News.
The meeting was intended to address the plight of the journalists who are now unemployed.
Takaona, who attended the meeting in his capacity as the president of the Union, was accused
of playing a role that was in conflict with the interests of his employer.
As if that was not enough, more than 100 media workers were fired from the Herald after
accusing management of corruption and mismanagement.
Government and media relations sour
Relations between the government and the media falls into two distinct areas: the government’s
relationship with the private media, and its relationship with the public media.
So This Is Democracy? 2004


Media Institute of Southern Africa

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