By Tererai Karimakwenda
07 August 2012
The sale of independent newspapers, including the Daily News, NewsDay and The Zimbabwean, is not allowed at the airport in Bulawayo and individuals are being searched by soldiers in remote rural areas of Matabeleland, it has been revealed.
Trusted sources at Bulawayo’s Joshua Nkomo Airport told SW Radio Africa correspondent Lionel Saungweme that there is an unspoken rule, known by the vendors, that these papers are not to be sold there.
Saungweme, who visited the Bulawayo Airport this week, said: “The only papers allowed at the airport are the ones published by the state. Workers were actually told not to sell those other independent papers. And most of the security staff at airports are intelligence agents, CIOs.”
Saungweme added that the “compounds” around the airport, where military and security personnel live with their families, also have no access to any independent newspapers.
According to our correspondent, residents and travellers in remote rural areas of Nkayi and some parts of Matopos district are also being subjected to body searches by police and soldiers looking for newspapers and leaflets.
Any leaflets with political messages or educational materials are considered contraband and confiscated. Saungweme said people have been beaten or tortured just for having a newspaper to read on the bus.
The revelation comes just days after two more newspapers were licensed by the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC), in a move that some critics said gives the impression there is some progress being made. The fact is that existing newspapers and media practitioners still face major obstacles.
The ZMC last week licensed The Zimbabwean, which has already been in Zimbabwe for some time, and The Observer, a new daily newspaper whose publisher said they were still sourcing funds.
Distribution of independent newspapers is unofficially banned in many rural parts of the country, as ZANU PF thugs enforce the illegal ban with impunity. Vendors in urban areas like Harare and Bulawayo have also not been immune to assaults and intimidation by ZANU PF supporters.
ZANU PF has consistently resisted implementing key media reforms that were agreed to in the Global Political Agreement (GPA). In addition the Minister for Information, Webster Shamu, has ignored orders from the principals to reform the boards of the Mass Media Trust, the Media Commission and Zimbabwe Broadcasting.