Saturday, October 14, 2006

More on Press Censorship in Zimbabwe

In a piece for the Weekly Standard web site, James Kirchick provides some additional details on the brutal climate of press censorship in Zimbabwe, as well as news of a potentially hopeful development:

So it was more than a little encouraging to read the news out of Harare on Monday that the Daily News, a crusading independent newspaper whose journalists have been routinely harassed, whose offices have been firebombed, whose printing presses have been destroyed, and which was forced by the government to shut down in September 2003, is one step closer to resuming publication. The paper's publishers made an appeal to the country's High Court to grant them a license to print, as the succession of repressive laws that Mugabe enacted in 2002 requires all local media to register with the government. In a country where those meant to enforce the rule of law all too often see it as an irritation rather than, as they ought to, "their God," (as Beatrice Mtetwa, the country's top media lawyer, told me in August), the Mugabe-packed state media commission has twice refused to grant the Daily News this license in spite of a Supreme Court ruling that the ban was invalid. At the height of its popularity, the News had a circulation of 150,000 (and a readership of much more than that; the number of readers per copy is much higher in Africa than in Western nations), an impressive number for a country of about 14 million people.

The News's struggle to reopen has taken place within a larger context of repressive actions against the media. In January, the government arrested board members of Voice of the People (VOP), an independent radio station, and only in September was the case thrown out. Mugabe has successfully jammed the Voice of America and BBC. All four of the country's radio stations are government run, as is the one television station. And since 2002, foreign journalists have been legally barred from entering the country. But Mugabe does not view all foreign press with suspicion. Just before I arrived in Harare, Al Jazeeera announced that it would be the first international television station to open a bureau there.

Tyrant v. Daily News


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