State of the media in Southern Africa - 2003

by Davison S Maruziva
Davison S. Maruziva is a Media Consultant. He was the founding Deputy-Editor-in-Chief of
The Daily News in Zimbabwe.
“Freedom of expression constitutes one of the essential foundations of a
democratic society and it is applicable not only to information and ideas
that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive or as a matter of
indifference, but also to those that offend, shock or disturb the state or
any sector of the population...” - Supreme Court (Zimbabwe 21 May 2000)


iolations of media freedom and freedom of expression in Zimbabwe rose almost elevenfold during 2003, compared to those recorded in the previous year. The period under
review saw the government declaring the private media “weapons of mass deception”
and in its view, therefore, “weapons of mass destruction”. But it was the last quarter of 2003
that was dominated by a bruising fight to get The Daily News and its sister Sunday paper, The
Daily News on Sunday back on the streets, while the government demonstrated its determination to silence alternative voices deemed critical of it.
Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), the publishers of the two newspapers sought
legal opinion during the early part of 2003 on whether or not it should register with the Media
and Information Commission in order to continue to operate as a media organization. The legal
advice given the newspaper group was not to register. Instead, it was recommended that it
should mount a constitutional challenge.
While this was done, the Supreme Court, however, ruled on 11 September 2003 that ANZ was
acting outside the law. The group hastily filed its papers for registration, but the Media and
Information Commission (MIC) said that these were not in order. The MIC ordered the group
to cease publishing its two titles until it was issued with a registration certificate. Armed police
moved in and occupied the offices of ANZ. They also confiscated some of the company’s
equipment, ensuring that staff would not be allowed to enter the premises, or if they did, that
they would not have the resources to produce their newspapers.
The dramatic events of the last quarter of 2003 appear to portray in sharp focus, an escalation
in the arrests, beatings, harassments, threats and torture of journalists, in a development that
appears widely designed to panel-beat media practitioners and their organizations into subservient compliance. Repressive laws, such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) were routinely applied against the private press in general, but in particular
against titles from the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ) stable.
An example is the arrest and assault of Philemon Bulawayo, a photojournalist with The Daily
News, and Gugulethu Moyo, ANZ’s legal adviser, in March 2003. Another was that of Andrew
Meldrum, a correspondent for The Guardian (UK), who was arrested, released, detained and
later deported illegally despite a High Court ruling against such conduct.
The government used the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) to arrest three of The Daily
News editors in June 2003. The State also used POSA to arrest members of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), who were holding a peaceful demonstration on 17 September
2003 to protest the forced closure of The Daily News and The Daily News on Sunday and also

So This Is Democracy? 2003


Media Institute of Southern Africa

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