In fact, the government demonstrated its
determination to close the democratic
space through a slew of threats to clamp
down on, among other repressive measures, social media and those who are alleged to abuse it.
This came at a time as government
ramped up its drive to enact the Cybercrimes and Security Bill, which culminated in the establishment of such ministry late in 2017. Named the Ministry
of Cybercrimes, Threat Detection and
Mitigation, its lifespan was short-lived
as its responsibilities were incorporated
into that of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) upon President
Mnangagwa’s ascension to power.
In a press statement issued on 24 September 2017, then Minister of Home Affairs, Dr Ignatius Chombo, made clear
government’s intentions in that regard.
He accused the press and social media
of spreading alarm and despondency
warning that government would take
“decisive action to deal a telling blow”
to the perpetrators of such ‘crimes’.
The minister’s statement was seen as
a blatant threat against the exercise of
freedom of expression on the part of
both citizens and the media as provided
for in Sections 61 and 62 of the Zimbabwean Constitution.

As the print media struggled for survival
and solutions against the background
of unfolding technological advances,
compounded by dwindling advertising
revenue in an unfavourable economic
environment, it also came under the
spotlight following accusations of its
capture, particularly in the context of
the ruling Zanu PF succession fights.

Both the public and private media were
accused of being factional, biased and
partisan in their coverage of the Zanu
PF succession story. Though unsubstantiated, there were also accusations that
some journalists were in the pockets of
high-ranking politicians, businesspersons and prominent church leaders.
During a meeting convened by MISA
Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe National
Editors Forum (ZINEF) on 9 September
2017 in Zimbabwe’s second city of
Bulawayo, journalists in attendance acknowledged there were, among them,
journalists working in cahoots with politicians across the political divide to the
detriment of media professionalism.
They maintained ‘media capture’ in the
form of interference with editorial independence by government officials especially in the public-owned media.
The ‘capture’ was not only restricted to
public media but was also evident in the
private media where certain journalists
were accused of being under the control
of influential politicians. Concerns were
expressed about appointments of editors along political lines, some of them
without journalism experience, which
was also contributing to the lowering of
standards as well as erosion of ethical
practice and conduct.
Other journalists were seen to be ‘moles’
for political and business gurus, making
it difficult for colleagues to work on sensitive stories without risk of being spied
on and reported to either corporate or
business paymasters.
Media capture also came in the form of
intimidation by big corporates threatening withdrawal of advertising revenue
in the event of what they perceived as
negative publicity.

So This is Democracy? 2017


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