Attacks on the Press
Though general elections in July took place in a significantly more peaceful atmosphere than the 2008 vote, the news media remained dominated by state-owned outlets. Journalists and human rights defenders were frequent targets of physical attacks and brief detentions in the months leading up to the election, which renewed the 33-year grip on power of 89-year-old President Robert Mugabe, giving the ruling party a two-thirds majority which could allow it to make changes to the country's recently approved constitution. No journalists were detained at the time of the elections, but an observer mission of Southern African editors failed to receive media accreditation ahead of the vote. Authorities maintained a tight hold on radio, the principal means of communication for Zimbabweans, most of whom live in rural areas. Though two commercial, urban-based stations were licensed in mid-2012, community radio stations were blocked from the air, and calls for the licensing of additional commercial licenses fell on deaf ears. Despite new constitutional provisions that guarantee media freedom and civil liberties, repressive laws such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Public Order and Security Act, and the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, remained on the books.