BY ARNOLD FANDISO
FORTY-ONE years after independence, Zimbabwe’s media landscape remains treacherous with independent journalists being subjected to harassment by State security agents, poorly paid and denied the freedom to exercise their rights, freelance scribe Hopewell Chin’ono has said.
Speaking in an interview with SABC on Sunday on the state of the media in Zimbabwe, Chin’ono said: “The economy is dead, which means that the media institutions, particularly the private Press, is not able to pay journalists competitive salaries, and because of that, they become compromised.
“We have seen a lot of repression, a lot of arrests, and intimidation against journalists, something that was unheard of between 1980 and 1990. But as the economy started getting into a terrible state, we started seeing the reparations — not just the repression of citizens, but the intimidation of journalists started escalating.”
Chin’ono, who has had several run-ins with State security agents over the past three years, added that government had become more repressive, with the proposed Patriotic Act set to further stifle freedom of expression.
Zimbabwe was recently ranked 126 out of 180 countries in terms of the level of freedom enjoyed by journalists by an international media lobby group, Reporters Without Borders.
Former State media journalist Tichaona Zindoga bemoaned the uneven playing field where the State media remains the dominant player despite the change of guard at political level following the ouster of former President Robert Mugabe in November 2017.
“State media has become the biggest employer, the most profitable employer and you see what that comes with. It comes with a lot of censorship, propaganda, and challenges regarding access to information and freedom of expression,” he said.
“The authorities now want us to believe that these (media laws) are being relaxed, and they claim to have opened up media space. But the world has moved on and the people no longer rely on the State broadcast or State newspapers for information,” Zindoga said.