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Released on: July 5, 2024

Government bullying and intimidation of media escalates

The regime in Harare appears to be escalating its efforts to stifle media freedom, freedom of expression and freedom of association. More than 80 opposition supporters and civil social officials were arrested in June 2024 and are still in jail after authorities accused them of holding private meetings at private residences.

Opposition group Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) administrator Jameson Timba was seized together with his son and 75 others as they enjoyed a braai at his residence on June 16. The group is facing charges of disorderly conduct and participating in unlawful gatherings. They were denied bail and remanded until July 10.

Elsewhere, seven other opposition supporters and activists were arrested while distributing food handouts to elderly members at a local township as they allegedly did so without police clearance. CCC spokesperson, Promise Mkwananzi has accused the Zimbabwean government of attempting to suppress dissent by targeting political and social justice activists.

President Emerson Mnangagwa’s office also ordered the popular privately-owned newspaper NewsDay to retract a story in which the Zimbabwe leader accused Zambia of being a security threat in Southern Africa by allegedly working with the US to isolate Harare.

Newsday reported on the recorded discussion between Mnangagwa and Russian President Vladimir Putin, quoting him verbatim. Soon after, the President’s Office demanded a retraction claiming the Zimbabwean leader never said this.

NewsDay has since issued a terse retraction where it maintains that it correctly captured Mnangagwa’s remarks. The President’s Office is yet to respond to NewsDay which to all intents and purposes suggests the publication stands by its story.

On another matter, the Ministry of Information inexplicably ordered the cancellation of a Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) Amendment Bill workshop between 5-6 June. The ZMC invited media stakeholders and government lawyers to the workshop as part of efforts to collectively agree on amendments. Among other things, these amendments seek to promote co-regulation, which media players view as a significant departure from the current statutory regulation. The amendment also seeks to purportedly instill professionalism in the Zimbabwe media industry. If passed into law, it will allow ZMC to delegate disciplinary powers to media professional bodies registered with the statutory body. It is understood there are differences between ZMC officials and the Information ministry over co-regulation and the composition of a proposed media council.

Contact: Anton Harber
+27 83 303 9497

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