Although official anti-press harassment continued a gradual decline from its peak after the disputed 2008 elections, a highly restrictive legal framework kept domestic, independent news sources to a mere handful. The fractious coalition between Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF and Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC failed to implement the media reforms they had pledged to undertake in their 2008 power-sharing deal, leaving in place repressive laws such as the Access to Information and Privacy Protection Act. At least six journalists faced criminal defamation charges, including two staffers from the weekly Standard who were detained after covering a politician's arrest. Assailants broke into the offices of NewsDay and Masvingo Mirror, stealing computer hard drives and storage discs. Both break-ins followed critical coverage; no suspects were arrested in either case. Fearing the influence of revolutions in North Africa, authorities detained dozens of civil society members for watching footage of the Egyptian revolution at a public gathering. The European Union named six state media journalists among 200 Zimbabweans subject to sanctions for allegedly promoting violence during the 2008 polling.
Official repression drove at least 49 journalists into exile over the past decade, the fifth highest number in the world, according to a CPJ study. Most of the exodus occurred in the first half of the decade.
Although the power-sharing agreement of September 2008 allowed private broadcasting, it was only in 2011 that the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe began calling for applications. Of the applications received, the authority granted licenses to only two radio station applicants, Zimpapers Talk Radio and AB Communications, both closely linked to the ruling ZANU-PF party.
Arrests under the repressive accreditation law declined since the post-election crackdown of 2008, when police detained more than a dozen journalists, CPJ research shows. Still, one AIPPA-related arrest was reported in 2011. Police arrested photographer Blessed Mhlanga in July for taking images without accreditation. Mhlanga was soon released after producing accreditation documents.
In January 2011, authorities significantly raised the accreditation fees for international news media outlets and their local correspondents.
300 percent: Increase in fee to open an international news media bureau. International news outlets must pay US$6,000, up from US$2,000. Renewals went from being free to costing US$5,000.
400 percent: Increase in accreditation fee for Zimbabwean journalists working for foreign media. The fee quadrupled from US$100 to US$400. The renewal of accreditation went from being free to costing US$300.
100 percent: Increase in fee for southern African media outlets operating in Zimbabwe. The fee increased from US$1,000 to US$2,000.
Several cases of obstruction were reported during the year, according to CPJ research. Officials blocked reporters from covering news events in some instances. In others, authorities and ruling party supporters prevented newspaper vendors from selling critical publications.
Do you believe the free flow of information must be protected? Sign the #RightToReport petition and demand that President Obama immediately:
1. Issue a presidential policy directive prohibiting the hacking and surveillance of journalists and media organizations.
2. Limit aggressive prosecutions that ensnare journalists and intimidate whistleblowers.
3. Prevent the harassment of journalists at the U.S. border.
Or click here to see the full petition, and join leading journalists like Christiane Amanpour, The Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger, Editor of the AP Kathleen Carroll, and Arianna Huffington in signing on.