Zimbabwean journalists assembled at the Quill Club in Harare Thursday, World Press Day, to reflect on the many problems afflicting their profession, having been barred by the police from marching through the capital to present a petition to the Media and Information Commission, which has put a number of newspapers out of business.
In the most prominent such case, police halted publication of the Daily News in 2003 after it refused to register with the MIC on grounds that this was an infringement on press freedom. The MIC later refused to accept its application for registration.
The petition was to have requested the repeal of the draconian Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, known to most Zimbabweans as AIPPA - a companion to the Public Order and Security Act, or POSA - which provides for prison sentences of up to two years for journalists who gather and publish information unlicensed.
Information Officer Nyasha Nyakunu of the Zimbabwean chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa told reporter Carole Gombakomba that developments in Zimbabwe give little reason to believe the Harare government is ready to accord the freedom of expression enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The International Press Institute, a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists, said Zimbabwe was neither the most dangerous nor the worst country in the world to practice journalism, but probably the most difficult.
IPI Editor David Dadge said restrictive laws and a continuing government clampdown are killing Zimbabwe's once-vibrant independent media.