Media games and shifting of spaces for political communication in

Eric M. Mazango
Department of Media and Communication
University of Oslo

media games, communicative sovereignty, political communication,
Zimbabwe crisis, communication control, media policy


Elaborate media games have been played to restrain growing political opposition and to maintain
ZANU PF supremacy in Zimbabwe. From the dark days of Rhodesia, regime control of public
communication remains one of the most enduring sources of ruling party dominance in the
country. This history of government containment of a critical media laid the foundation for postindependence control of freedom of expression, something that has proved an effective
instrument for blocking envisaged transition to an alternative democracy today. Since 2000 new
restrictive laws have shut down four titles and 80 media workers have been arrested or detained for
various transgressions. Is the government’s recent strengthening of egregious media laws a defence
of communicative sovereignty as it claims, or it is a manifest reversal into authoritarian rule as detractors


‘Our Republic and its press will rise or fall together. An able,
disinterested, public-spirited press, with trained intelligence to know the
right and courage to do it, can preserve that public virtue without which
popular government is a sham and a mockery. A cynical, mercenary,
demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself. The
power to mould the future of the Republic will be in the hands of the
journalists of future generations’ (Joseph Pulitzer 1904).

This paper1 reviews the government of Zimbabwe’s media response to its local and
external enemies in the five years since 2000. What has come to be known in
popular commentary as the ‘Zimbabwe crisis’, marked by a confrontation between
President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU PF party and its array of antagonists, has...

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