Zimbabwe’s media is under siege and has been dragged back to the colonial era under the Rhodesia government, a newspaper publisher Ibbo Mandaza told journalists during a World Press Freedom Day commemorations in Harare on Monday morning.
Mandaza used to publish the now defunct Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror and he is also the director of think-tank Southern African Political and Economic Series Trust.
“Zimbabwe media is under siege, we have been taken back to Rhodesian period, the state is now ruling without being accountable to people.
“There is too much censorship of the media, especially state-owned media houses. Look at the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), it is now like Rhodesia Broadcasting Corporation (RBC), I mean everything broadcasted there is being censored by the state,” said Mandaza.
“We have a state which has come with a very strong law and order department to deal with any democratic voices,” Mandaza added.
Speaking at the same event, one of the country’s prominent editors Dumisani Muleya said too much political interference and economic meltdown has led to the collapse of Zimbabwe’s media houses.
“Too much interference into the media operations by politicians in Zimbabwe and the economic meltdown has led to the collapse of media in Zimbabwe,” said Muleya, who is editor of private owned newspaper, the Zimbabwe Independent.
“We recently had Zimbabwe Mail and Southern Eye newspapers closing down due to the prevailing harsh economic condition. Journalists are also being retrenched with those remaining at work having their salaries being slashed, the situation is just bad,” he said.
The Zimbabwe Mail is owned by the country’s Transport Minister Obert Mpofu. Its recent closure has left several journalists jobless.
The state-owned Zimbabwe Newspapers Group (Zimpapers) has also indicated that it is retrenching more than 100 employees to cope with a contraction in its revenue base caused by low advertising and diminishing readership.
Zimpapers publishes at least seven titles including its flagship The Herald and runs a commercial radio station, but most of the entities are not generating enough money to keep the company in the black.
According to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, about 4 000 workers lost their jobs in 2014, while Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa said 4 600 companies closed down between 2011 and October 2014, resulting in 64 000 job losses.
Muleya also mentioned that the country’s Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is also the justice minister, is leading a crusade against the country’s media after he insist that the Criminal Defamation Law should not be scrapped.
Several Zimbabwe journalists have been arrested and charged under the Criminal Defamation Law.