Since 2002, southern Africa’s former “bread basket”, has sunk into an unprecedented economic crisis but also into tyranny. The anti-western obsession of the government has pushed it into annually sharpening its already draconian legislative arsenal. Control mechanisms systematically crush even the slightest hint of criticism. Excessive sentences - 20 years in prison for “publishing false news” - are laid down for all those who fail to respect the rules imposed by the all-powerful ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF).
In 2005, as one might expect, the situation worsened still further for independent journalists. The electoral campaign for the 31 March legislative poll was a model of injustice for the opposition, while the government used its new cooperation with China to scramble the signal of the SW Radio Africa. Arrested and threatened with harsh prison sentences, staff on independent media and correspondents for the foreign press, are often taken before the courts or flee the country, even temporarily, to avoid prison.
The Media Information Commission (MIC), in the guise of a media self-regulation body, is in reality the government’s control and censorship office. Chaired by an associate of Robert Mugabe, it has the power to grant or cancel media licences, to issue or withdraw journalists’ accreditations. Those found in contravention face two years in prison.
In these conditions, 2005 was a new year of struggle for the Daily News, once the country’s most popular paper. Today, unlicensed and with dwindling resources, it continues to defend itself before every possible judicial body in a bid to be allowed to reappear.