A group of men in Harare read about the election result in state-controlled newspaper The Herald.
Photo: Alexander Joe/AFP/Scanpix
No democracy without free media
In 2007, a group of journalists and editors formed the independent Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) with Swedish development aid. The council works to remove the strict regulation that determines which media organizations and journalists are given licences to operate.
“All we really want is to establish professional journalism,” says John Gambanga, VMCZ’s executive director. “Today, we have media organizations that are loyal to the government and a few that are critical of it. What we need is independent media that doesn’t support any side.”
One of the ingredients in Sweden’s support is journalistic education through Sweden’s Institute for Further Education of Journalists (Fojo).
When visiting Zimbabwe, it is easy to see the importance of independent media. News reporting is extremely biased towards the former ruling party. Critical discussion is discouraged.
Despite the formation of a transitional government, the old political guard continues to protect its territory. However, the pressure for freedom of expression in the country is constantly becoming stronger. One important pressure group is the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), which has been receiving Sida’s support for many years.
Culture not a luxury
Cultural expression may be viewed as a luxury in a country where people are in need. But cultural activities can also provide relief in a repressive state, and through culture people can express their thoughts and dreams and stand stronger against oppression. Culture is also a part of freedom of expression.
Sida has therefore been supporting cultural expression in Zimbabwe for many years. Areas that have received support include children’s literature, music and theatre. Many plays that depict social conditions have encouraged discussion between people through our support.
Independent culture fund distributes contributions
There has been a culture fund in Zimbabwe for many years, which we helped launch and which we finance. The fund is managed independently and distributes assets to a number of cultural projects without our influence.
“Last year, we funded 140 projects,” says Farai Mpfunya, the fund’s executive director.
The aim of the fund is to contribute towards improving the country’s cultural sector. Professionals working in cultural fields, small local groups and individuals can receive support. Part of the support goes to groups of craftsmen, who produce goods to sell.
”It’s important that people can also live off the work they do within the cultural sector,” Mpfunya says.