Zim journalists playing lethal game

HARARE - Dictators and press freedom predators are impervious to the truth.

They have no respect for the freedoms of citizens and see shadows where journalists and purveyors of the truth are involved.

This is the situation that our colleagues in repressive Swaziland find themselves.

King Mswati III has subjected the media particularly those that dare report the truth, to some worst forms of dictatorship through the use of nefarious laws aimed at stifling free expression.

The latest assault is the shocking sentencing of an editor with the country’s only independent magazine — The Nation.

On Wednesday, Bheki Makhubu was slapped with two years imprisonment or 200 000 Emalangeni fine which is the equivalent to  $21 000.

His crime: Criticising Chief Justice Michael Ramodibedi.

Ironically, the court acted as the aggrieved and the judge at the same time as it handed its sentence of contempt of court on the hapless editor.

Swaziland is ranked 155th out of 179 worst countries that violate media freedom.

Here in Zimbabwe there are signs on the ground that our government and law enforcement agents could return the country to the pre-2008 period where journalists and media houses were subjected to harassment.

Already there has been applied use of the much criticised criminal defamation law on journalists in the independent media.

There have been veiled threats by Media, Information and Publicity minister Webster Shamu who declared on Independence Day that no pencil will triumph over the gains of liberation.

Yet, in all these visible attacks on the media, journalists are dangerously choosing to stab each other and play into the hands of the State.

Since the consummation of the inclusive government, there have been cracks in the independent media which are beginning to widen as the country gears up for elections.

This is despite the fact that there are many targets that are yet to be met in the struggle for justice in the area of press freedom.

Zimbabwean journalists remain under the close watch of the State actors and there are many arrows still aimed at the country’s small journalism industry.

The Zimbabwe Media Council which, among other things, seeks to have journalists jailed where they are found to have violated ethics is yet to take off.

Slowly but surely, it will have its day in court!

There are raft of laws that criminalise the profession yet the fight has been left to media watchdogs. It is frightening! - Staff writer

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