The Failure of the Independent Press

Sarah Helen Chiumbu, M. Phil.

In my analysis of Parade, Moto, and Horizon, I discovered that in the initial part of the conflict, both publications did not cover the human rights abuses in Matebeleland satisfactorily. Although Moto reported several aspects of the Matebeleland Conflict, the various human rights abused by the security agents were not covered. The independent press also failed to analyse the effects of the 24-hour curfew covering Matebeleland South on social and economic rights. This "failure" can be attributed to the unclear stance of the private press in Zimbabwe right after independence as argued below:

the varying experiences of the two leading publications, Moto and Parade were exemplary of the problems faced in developing a revamped, critical, independent popular press in the 1980s. In the case of Moto, the primary difficulty involved making a transition from its openly antagonistic, campaigning stance adopted in the days of UDI, to a supportively-critical yet independent voice in the era of majority rule. In the case of Parade, the challenge was to stake out a new, more serious editorial line without undermining its popular-entertainment appeal (Saunders 1991: 178).

The silence of the magazines over the conflict can also be attributed to the government's decision to seal the affected areas and the use of wide ranging laws on media reporting. On 13 October 1982, the then Minister of Information, Nathan Shamuyarira, placed a ban on domestic reporting from the curfew areas. Foreign journalists who were reporting from "sealed" security zones were deported. Laws such as the Official Secrets Act and the Law.

References

Saunders, R. Information in the Interregnum: The Press, State, and Struggles for Hegemony, Zimbabwe, 1980-1990. Ph.D thesis. Carelton University.


[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 99. Available from Available from Department of Media and Communications [info@media.uio.no].


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