ZIMBABWE has emerged a lowly number 126 out of a total 180 world countries ranked for their media freedom by the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) for the period covering the whole of last year.
This is according to the 2018 World Press Freedom Index published on Wednesday which placed Ghana as the most media friendly country on the continent, although being 23rd in the whole world.
Completing the top three slots for Africa were Namibia in 26th and South Africa in 28th slot. At the bottom of the ranking was Eritrea at 179th, Africa’s worst placement. Others in the not free bracket were Sudan, Egypt, Burundi, Equatorial Guinea, Djibouti and Somalia.
The 2018 Index takes account of violations that took place between January 1st and December 31st 2017, just a month after Mugabe was ousted as President in a military assisted intervention.
But Zimbabwe’s position spotlights on ex-President Robert Mugabe regime’s tough stance on a media the former first family always accused of too much fixation with its private affairs.
Addressing the Zanu PF central committee in October last year, Mugabe singled out the privately owned NewsDay and The Standard newspapers for attack, saying they were opposition media desperately working to destroy Zanu PF.
He described them as “those rubbish papers” which were used by Zanu PF politicians to leak negative information against their rivals.
Days before Mugabe’s November ouster, Human Rights Watch, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum and the Media Centre released a statement indicating that at least 23 violations of media freedom had been recorded in 2016 alone.
Even after his fall and the ushering in of his former allies in government, the country’s media situation remains tense with journalists finding it difficult to access government information which is often carefully released to the State media when it suits the State’s agenda.
The broadcasting space is still limited to players linked to the ruling party.
Misa-Zimbabwe director Tabani Moyo said Zimbabwe’s positioning as one of the world’s less media friendly destinations was appropriate.
“Journalists remain under set political pressure to report positively and ‘responsibly’, yet the stringent laws that curtail freedoms remain in place.
“The government have failed to show good will through basic reforms in the media such as repealing AIPPA and BSA, licensing community radios and transforming ZBC into a genuine broadcaster.”