Big Brother is Watching: Surveillance Regulation and its Effects on Journalistic Practices in Zimbabwe

Allen Munoriyarwa, Sarah H. Chiumbu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In many African countries, including Zimbabwe, journalists have been subjected to various policy regulations that have widely been criticised for making the practice of journalism difficult. Part of the reason has been the advent of competitive politics that have left the ruling regimes scrambling to limit freedoms and stop opposition onslaught on their power. One way the Zimbabwean government has limited freedom of expression has been through the introduction of the Interception of Communications Act, a surveillance regulation law that has had a chilling effect on the practice of journalism. This paper utilises Pierre Bourdieu’s journalistic field as theoretical lenses, focusing on the concepts of journalistic field to explore how journalists have been affected by the threats posed by this law in their daily newsgathering and production activities. The study is based on qualitative interviews with Zimbabwean journalists and civil society activists with an interest in the media, sampled from the private print media. The article argues that state surveillance has disrupted the journalistic field in the country by damaging the relationship between journalists and their sources, thus compromising one of the basic tenets of journalism. Journalists can no longer follow the widely held newsgathering routines as a result of state surveillance policies. Furthermore, investigative journalism, which was already under pressure from political influence, has been further eroded. We argue that Zimbabwe journalists need to develop reporting practices that expose surveillance and find creative ways to negotiate and resist surveillance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-41
Number of pages16
JournalAfrican Journalism Studies
Volume40
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2019

Keywords

  • Interception of Communications Act
  • journalism practice
  • journalistic field
  • Surveillance
  • Zimbabwe

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication

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