Zimbabwe's April 8 general elections extended President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF Party's 15-year rule for an additional six-year term. The government's strategy for suffocating political dissent during the election campaign hinged on a systematic assault on the press through the use of broad anti-defamation laws and the Parliamentary Privileges and Immunities Act. The state routinely invoked colonial-era laws such as the Official Secrets Act, which criminalizes receiving official information from unauthorized government officials, to prosecute journalists.
The Zimbabwean Union of Journalists (ZUJ), which has consistently criticized the system of secrecy institutionalized at the highest political levels, called for an overhaul of undemocratic laws that are used to harass members of both the state and the private media. In November, the ZUJ demanded that the government transfer control over national newspapers to an independent authority, reiterated its request for constitutional amendments to protect press freedom, and called for the repeal of a law that empowers the state to require journalists to disclose the identity of their sources. Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa's response that "Unrestricted freedom would lead to disorder and anarchy and would harm social and national interests," indicates that the government has no plans to change Zimbabwe's media laws.
The state assumed direct control of the country's largest media group, the Zimbabwe Mass Media Trust (ZMMT), by invoking an April 29 amendment to the ZMMT deed which grants the government the authority to oversee ZMMT's operations. The state's monopoly over the broadcast media has restricted access to information for the majority of the population. In light of President Mugabe's strict control over all broadcast media, it is unlikely that liberalization of the airwaves will appear on the national agenda in the coming year.
Gay and lesbian publications, HARASSED, CENSORED
The government banned Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) from setting up an exhibit at the Zimbabwe International Book Fair. On July 31, the Zimbabwe High Court ruled the prohibition invalid, and the organization was allowed to participate in the book fair. At the end of the exhibition, a mob of University of Zimbabwe students ransacked the stand at which GALZ was displaying its literature.
Farayi Makotsi, Financial Gazette, HARASSED
Zimbabwe's minister of health, Timothy Stamps, ripped the tape from an audio recorder belonging to Makotsi, news editor of the privately owned Financial Gazette. The incident occurred at a news conference in Harare where the minister was discussing an ongoing strike by doctors and nurses.
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