Zimbabwe has been ranked 117, on Press freedom in the world, improving by six notches from 2010, despite constant arrests of media practitioners last year, according to a report released by Reporters Without Borders.
Zimbabwe is tied on position 117 together with Cambodia, Fiji, Oman and Venezuela.
The international journalistic body ranked Finland and Norway as the most democratic, coming first and second respectively, while Eritria (179) and North Korea (178) were ranked the worst.
“Crackdown was the word of the year 2011. Never have journalists, through their reporting, vexed the enemies of freedom so much. Never have acts of censorship and physical attacks on journalists seemed so numerous.
“The equation is simple; the absence or suppression of civil liberties leads necessarily to the suppression of media freedom. Dictatorships fear and ban information, especially when it may undermine them,” said the report.
Zimbabwe last year had cases where The Standard editor Nevanji Madanhire and reporter Nqaba Matshazi were arrested, while this year two Daily News journalists, reporter Xolisani Ncube and photographer Anne Mpalume, were arrested together with journalists from The Herald.
In an interview with Newsday yesterday Media Institute for Zimbabwe national director Nhlanhla Ngwenya said improvement of Zimbabwe’s media freedom was marginal.
“The improvement has to do particularly with the number of newspapers that are now available in Zimbabwe. Otherwise, the operating environment remains the same. We still remain with a repressive environment that was implemented years ago,” he said.
Zimbabwe Union of Journalists president Dumisani Sibanda said while the licensing of new newspapers had opened up media space, there were still constraints to do with “freeing the airwaves” and the continued existence of legislation that seemed calculated to “muzzle the Press”.
“The existence of legislation like criminal defamation and causing disaffection to the police clause continue to worry us as journalists as they are being used as instruments of repression. To make matters worse, there has not been much in terms of broadcasting reforms,” he said.
The Press Freedom Index is an annual ranking of countries compiled and published by Reporters Without Borders, based on the organisation’s assessment of their Press freedom record.