Media and Impediments to Democratization in Zimbabwe

Sarah Helen Chiumbu, M. Phil.

We should not take it for granted the media in Africa will fulfil these democratic goals. There are a many factors which affect the relationship between the media and democracy and they should not be forgotten in the on-going debates on the role of the media in the democratisation process and human rights awareness. Thus in talking about press freedom in Africa, we have to take numerous factors into consideration such as the economic, social, political, and cultural structures of different countries. A host of scholars on the media situation in Africa (Ansah 1991; Karikari 1993; RBFnning 1993; Feltoe 1993; Kasoma 1993) all believe in the importance of freedom of the press for the promotion of democracy. They assert that a free and vigorous press is an important part of the process of democratisation. However, there are several problems that the media encounter in their attempt to fulfil these democratic goals.

One of the factors affecting the media's role in the democratisation process in Africa is the fact that not everyone is informed or can be informed. As said earlier, citizens must have access to information and analysis which will enable them to participate in the affairs of the country. Lack of adequate information in Africa is due to two main factors: limited access to the media and high illiteracy rates. Newspapers are mainly distributed in the cities and the collecting, editing and printing of the newspapers is concentrated in the urban centres. This means that "the mass media are generally ill-suited to provide vital linkages between the separate constituent parts of the wider political or national systems" (Ngugi 1995: 51).


[from Sarah Helen Chiumbu, Democracy, Human Rights, and the Media: A Case Study of Two Human Rights Organizations and the Media in Zimbabwe. Oslo: University of Oslo, 1997, page 50. Available from Available from Department of Media and Communications [info@media.uio.no].


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