Media Report for 2008 will indicate, the majority of the legislative changes to media regulation
and the practise of freedom of expression have proven to be more cosmetic than democratic,
more a papering over the cracks than fundamental democratisation of the media.
This State of the Media Report for 2008 intends to narrate not only the technical framework of
the media in the period under review but also key factors that affected freedom of expression
and access to information. The primary reason for this, is that the year under review was
characterised by seismic political and economic events within the context of an electoral period,
continued regional and continental mediation in the country,
abduction/harassment/arrest/detention/murder and torture of journalists as well as repression
of civil society organisations and activists.
Political Context and Key Events of 2008.

The quest for a return to normalcy in the context of socio-economic and political stability
heightened in the new year (2008) following the announcement of 29 March 2008 as the date
for the harmonised presidential, parliamentary, senatorial and local government elections. The
elections were held in a relatively peaceful environment largely due to intervention by SADC
mediator and former South African President Thabo Mbeki that the 2008 elections be
conducted in tandem with the southern African region’s Principles and Guidelines on the
Conduct of Democratic Elections1.
It is now common cause that the elections reversed Zanu PF’s dominance as the ruling party
since independence in 1980 after the two MDC formations garnered a collective parliamentary
majority of 109 seats in the 210-member House of Assembly. Apprehension, however,
engulfed the national mood in the wake of the unprecedented delays in announcing the results
of the presidential elections. The results were eventually announced with MDC-T leader
Morgan Tsvangirai having a slight edge over Zanu PF leader President Robert Mugabe
necessitating a presidential election run-off between the two bitter rivals. The final showdown
between President Mugabe and Tsvangirai was slated for 27 June 2008.
The results of the elections were condemned regionally and internationally as not having been
free and fair in the face of unprecedented state sanctioned violence, abductions and murder of
opposition party activists forcing Tsvangirai to pull out of what eventually turned out to be a
one-man presidential race that resulted in President Mugabe as the sole winner for a five-year
presidential term. In the meantime the socio-economic decline continued in the wake of
increased shortages of basic commodities, stratospheric inflation, collapse of the education and
health institutions exacerbated by endemic strikes by doctors, nurses and teachers demanding
for improved working conditions.
Little wonder the huge sigh of relief across the socio-economic and political divide when the
post-27 June 2008 SADC mediation efforts to break the impasse culminated in the signing of
the Global Political Agreement (GPA) in Harare on 15 September 2008 for the formation of a
power sharing inclusive government. Hailed as the best available option to halt the
unprecedented decline, despair returned to haunt the traumatised and restless populace as the

The SADC Principles and Guidelines on the Conduct of Democratic Elections stress the full
participation of citizens in the electoral process, press freedom and equal and equitable access by all
political parties to state media, freedom of association and political tolerance and independence of the
judiciary among its other 10 fundamental tenets for the holding of free and fair elections.


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