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The media in Zimbabwe consists of newspapers, television and radio stations, and online news outlets, both public and private.

Some of the oldest newspapers in Africa are in Zimbabwe. The first, a hand-written paper known as the Mashonaland Herald and Zambesian Times, was published by one journalist beginning in June of 1891. It was replaced by The Rhodesia Herald the following year, which is published as The Herald today. The Rhodesia Herald was published by the Argus Company, which later established another newspaper, the Bulawayo Chronicle, and this paper is also in existence yet today. The two publications promoted the positions of the British South Africa Company in its ambitions for Rhodesia.

In the colonial era, newspapers catered to white administrators and settlers, largely ignoring the concerns of the African majority. Rather than reporting on African events, these early newspapers reported on events in Britain, political affairs, sports, and the affairs of Rhodesia's white population.

Up until the time that Zimbabwe achieved independence as Zimbabwe, media coverage targeted its white readers and advertisers. Owners, publishers, editors, reporters, and nearly all of its advertising and circulation executives were white.

The media allows those who control it, whether by ownership, political pressure, or force, to determine what is reported and, as a consequence, decide what people will know or not know. Zimbabweans would learn that this was true regardless of who was in charge of the press.

When the Robert Mugabe government gained control of the government, the next move was to control the electronic and print media. He found it easy to take over the electronic media because, by law, radio and television stations were under government control. In theory, the electronic media was supposed to be autonomous, but in reality, the government controlled the budget and the broadcast authority. The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation acted as a subsidiary of the government by denying access to opposition groups, while broadcasting government propaganda. Prior to a presidential election, nearly every election story placed Mugabe in a good light, while broadcasting negative information about opposition candidates. Even when the courts moved to break the government's monopoly over the broadcast media, no other company or individual was given a license to operate a radio or television station competing with the ZBC.

As for newspapers, today several of the country's newspapers are state-controlled, and used to disseminate government propaganda, while attacking government opponents, domestic and foreign. Opponents of the ruling government are rarely featured in a positive light and are usually not mentioned at all. There are independent newspapers, the most influential being the Daily News.

During the colonial era, there was censorship of both the media and the entertainment industry. Movies, books, and newspapers were censored. The current government does not go so far, but editors are selected for their willingness to follow government directives, while those who annoy the government are fired. Thus, self-censorship is routine in the state-owned media.

Under the white-controlled Smith regime, the broadcast media was under tight government control, but it wasn't owned by the government. Nevertheless, broadcasters were expected to refer to Mugabe and other opposition party leaders as terrorists or as leaders of terrorist organizations.

Once he had power, the Mugabe government appointed its own board of governors over the media, most of whom had no background in the media. Although there is a private press, some press outlets have been shut down by the government, and others have chosen to set up in bordering countries or in Western countries, operated by exiled Zimbabweans.

The environment for a free press in Zimbabwe is slowly improving, but it still has a long way to go. Internet use is not restricted by the government, but just over 10% of the population is able to afford access to it. Nevertheless, due to the unrestricted nature of the Internet, several foreign-based news outlets are accessible within Zimbabwe.

Most radio and television media are controlled by the government. Coverage for television is low in rural areas, so only about 30% of the population watches television on a regular basis, increasing the importance of radio. Two private radio stations began broadcasting in 2012, although both offer political discussion from a pro-government perspective, and one is largely focused on entertainment.



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