The constitution provides for freedom of speech and press, but legislation limits these freedoms in the “interest of defense, public safety, public order, state economic interests, public morality, and public health.” Making a false statement prejudicial to the government carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years. The government continued to arrest, detain, and harass its critics, and journalists practiced self-censorship.
Freedom of Speech: Security authorities continued to restrict freedom of speech and arrest individuals, particularly those who made or publicized comments critical of President Mugabe or made political statements opposing the government’s agenda. CIO agents and informers routinely monitored political and other meetings. Persons deemed critical of the government were targeted for harassment, abduction, interrogation, and sometimes torture.
On December 19, MDC-T parliamentarian Lynette Karenyi was arrested for insulting the president at a political rally. Karenyi had criticized President Mugabe over his stand against homosexuality (see section 6). On December 28, Karenyi was released on bail, and her case continued at year’s end.
During the year police instructed Prime Minister Tsvangirai to refrain from invoking hate speech or making derogatory remarks against other political parties during MDC rallies held in March. Many observers considered the police warning against the prime minister, who did not use hate speech, as a political tactic.
In November Magistrate Charles Murove referred the cases of Eliah Jemere, an MDC-T legislator, and Gilbert Kagodora, the provincial party treasurer for Mashonaland Central, to the Supreme Court. In June 2010 Jemere and Kagodora were arrested for insulting the Office of the President at an MDC-T rally. Both were subsequently released on bail. Kagodora filed an application challenging the constitutionality of the charge. The case was pending at year’s end.
During the year a magistrate’s court acquitted Teddy Chipere, MDC-T chairman of Makoni Central, on the grounds that the state took too long to bring the case to trial. In June 2010 police in Mutare arrested Chipere for insulting the Office of the President. He was released on bail three days later.
The appeal remained pending of Gift Mafuka, who was released on bail pending appeal after being sentenced in September 2010 to one year in prison with hard labor for insulting President Mugabe.
Freedom of Press: The government continued to restrict freedom of the press. The Ministry of Media Information and Publicity (MMIP) controlled the state-run media. High-ranking ZANU-PF officials, including President Mugabe, used the media to threaten violence against critics of the government. MMIP officials routinely threatened independent news organizations that criticized ZANU-PF and President Mugabe.
Despite threats and pressure from the government, the number of independent newspapers increased after the Zimbabwe Media Commission--which oversees media regulation, registration, and accreditation--granted publishing licenses in 2010. In March the Daily News, which was banned in 2003, resumed publishing. The Mail, another daily, also began publishing in March but ceased publication in July due to financial problems. Four independent weeklies continued to operate, and all independent newspapers continued to criticize the “inclusive” government and ZANU-PF. They also exercised self-censorship due to government intimidation and the continuing prospect of prosecution under criminal libel and security laws.
The government continued to use accreditation laws to prevent entry into the country of international media perceived to be critical of the government. Nevertheless, international media outlets such as CNN, Al Jazeera, and BBC continued to operate from within the country. Foreign journalists continued to report that government agents followed them and prevented them from covering certain news events.
In March the government denied accreditation to ETV reporter Robyn Kriel, who was born in the country but lived and worked in South Africa. No reason for the denial was given, but Kriel previously reported on human rights abuses committed by ZANU-PF supporters during the 2008 elections.
On April 25, CIO officials raided the headquarters of independent newspaper Newsday and confiscated hard disks and 11 computers. The office of Newsday editor Brian Mangwende was ransacked. A few days before the raid, the newspaper published an article that called on President Mugabe to step down. During the year Newsday vendors were threatened and copies of their newspapers confiscated.
On August 26, Zimbabwe Media Commission Chairperson Godfrey Majonga threatened to ban all foreign publications circulating in the country that had not been registered with the government-appointed regulatory body. Despite the threat several foreign-based newspapers published outside the country continued to circulate in the country, including the Sunday Times, Business Day, and the Zimbabwean. These publications continued to be critical of the government.
Radio remained the principal medium of public communication, particularly for the rural majority. The government controlled all domestic radio broadcasting stations through the state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings. The government continued to jam news broadcasts by radio stations based in other countries, including the Voice of America’s Studio 7, SW Radio Africa, and Voice of the People.
In May MMIP minister Webster Shamu announced that the government had procured equipment to establish eight community radio stations with technical assistance from the Zimbabwean Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC). Nevertheless, no community radio stations had been established by September. In July the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe, the regulatory body that licenses radio and television stations, invited applications for two national commercial radio broadcast licenses, but no new licenses were issued despite numerous applications submitted from independent prospective broadcasters. The Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe was not formally constituted by year’s end.
The government controlled ZBC, the only domestically based television broadcasting station, which operated two television channels. International satellite television broadcasts were available through private firms but were too expensive for most citizens.
Violence and Harassment: Journalists were assaulted by MDC and ZANU-PF supporters during the year. For example, on March 24, supporters of Prime Minister Tsvangirai attacked Daily News reporter Xolisani Ncube, who was interviewing persons at MDC headquarters. One of the assailants hit Ncube in the face and stole his camera. The attack came two weeks after MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa expelled freelance journalist Nkosana Dhlamini from a Tsvangirai news conference after Dhlamini asked Tsvangirai a question.
Security forces arbitrarily harassed and arrested local and foreign journalists who reported unfavorably on government policies or security force operations. Senior ZANU-PF officials also criticized local and foreign independent media outlets for allegedly biased reporting that discredited President Mugabe and misrepresented the country’s political and economic conditions.
On May 10, police arrested independent journalist Mzwandile Ndlovu and charged him with reporting a fictitious story. On April 23, Ndlovu published an article noting that a scheduled meeting between the Organ on National Healing, Reconciliation, and Integration and a coalition of organizations had been cancelled because two of the main participants--including Vice President John Nkomo--had not arrived. The article also reported on the arrest of Moses Mzila Ndlovu, a government minister and a member of the MDC-N faction. Trial was pending at year’s end.
On July 15, police in Ntabazinduna arrested and briefly detained journalists Nqobani Ndlovu of the Standard, Pindai Dube and Oscar Nkala of the Daily News, and freelance journalist Pamenos Tuso. The four journalists reported on the expulsion of Tedious Chisango, a police officer who was fired from the police force on July 15 allegedly for playing an MDC song on his personal cell phone while on duty. He was formally charged for actively participating in politics while in the police force. Chisango and his family were expelled from a police camp near Bulawayo.
On December 5, police in Gwanda arrested three members of the Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe (MMPZ), a media watchdog, for convening a meeting in October without police approval. The three were also charged with provoking a breach of peace in connection with MMPZ’s production of a DVD. Although reliable reports indicated the DVD was about peace and reconciliation, police claimed it was on the Gukurahundi atrocities. (Approximately 20,000 persons were killed during the 1980s as a result of a government-sanctioned crackdown on perceived insurgents in Matabeleland and Midlands region.) A magistrate’s court granted the three members bail on December 9, but they remained in jail until December 16 pending the state’s appeal against bail. On December 7, police in Harare detained and questioned MMPZ national director Andrew Moyse for five hours and released him without charge. On December 28, police charged Moyse with publishing statements undermining the president and served him with a warned and cautioned statement. The case against the three members and Moyse continued at year’s end.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: The government continued to use the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) to control media content and licensing of journalists. The main provisions of the law give the government extensive powers to control the media and suppress free speech by requiring the registration of journalists and prohibiting the “abuse of free expression.”
The law grants the government a wide range of legal powers to prosecute persons for political and security crimes that are not clearly defined. For example, the extremely broad Official Secrets Act makes it a crime to divulge any information acquired in the course of official duties.
On August 29, police questioned Zimbabwe Independent editor Constantine Chimakure and reporter Wongai Zhangazha about a story published in the newspaper’s July 8 edition. The story alleged that the MDC-T objected to attempts by Youth and Indigenization Minister Saviour Kasukuwere to reintroduce the National Youth Service training program because it was a ZANU-PF election strategy. The two were questioned on the sources of the story, which was alleged by the police to be based on cabinet deliberations, an offense under the Official Secrets Act.
Publishing Restrictions: In April 2010 the government adopted new regulations for the accreditation of journalists and registration of media services and effectively instituted a new pricing regime for accreditation and registration. The new regulations significantly reduced the previously prohibitive fees. Practicing journalism without accreditation can incur a fine or maximum of two years’ imprisonment.
Libel Laws/National Security: Antidefamation laws criminalize libel of both public and private persons. The criminal code makes it an offense to publish or communicate false statements prejudicial to the state. The law allows authorities to monitor and censor “the publication of false statements that will engender feelings of hostility towards--or cause hatred, contempt, or ridicule of--the president or acting president.” Any person who “insults the president or communicates falsehoods” is subject to imprisonment.
On June 29, police arrested Standard journalists Patience Nyangove and Nevanji Madanhire for criminal defamation and publication of falsehood prejudicial to the state. The journalists had published a story on the abduction of MDC-T Minister Jameson Timba in June (see section 1.b.). Nyangove was released the same day after questioning. Madanhire was released on $100 bail after two nights in detention. On December 14, a magistrate’s court dismissed the journalists’ application to refer the court to the Supreme Court. A trial was pending at year’s end.