Challenges and Opportunities: Media Independence and Press Freedom in Zimbabwe

Despite the 2013 Constitutional provisions and legislation ostensibly enacted and gazetted to enable media freedom, the media landscape under the Mnangagwa regime remains restrictive and incongruent with international best practises. In practice, every move has contradicted Mnangagwa’s pronouncements, upon wresting power, that he would ensure greater media freedom. The legal framework must now go beyond the current patchwork to a total overhaul, where the government exercises the necessary political will to liberalise the Zimbabwean media space. Dr Ibbo Mandaza, a Zimbabwean political analyst, substantiates this in his observation that media reforms are possible only in the context of the overall reform of the state in Zimbabwe. The proposed Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill points to this absence of overall reform, threatening the internet and social media-enabled expansion in platforms and avenues for free expression. Zimbabwe’s escalating governance crisis cannot be fully resolved without the government of Zimbabwe wilfully re-establishing media freedom. Realigning the legislative framework with the 2013 Constitution to ensure an independent ZMC; multi-stakeholder support for media sustainability; and promotion of women in journalism, among other significant measures, will be vital to ensure an independent and robust Zimbabwean media. Ongoing training and mentorship, particularly in investigative journalism, will go a long way towards promoting innovation and upholding ethical standards in the utilisation of online spaces to expose and fight corruption, as well as advancing the broader democratisation agenda.