INVESTIGATIVE journalism in Zimbabwe faces the twin obstacles of poor pay and restrictive laws, journalists say, writes correspondent.

The points were made at a meeting at Harare's Quill Club to commemorate and celebrate the life of slain Mozambican investigative journalist, Carlos Cardoso. 

Cardoso was shot and killed in Maputo on 22 November 2000 while investigating an alleged US$14 million fraud linked to the privatisation of Mozambique's largest bank, Banco Comercial de Moçambique.

Dumisani Muleya, a correspondent of Business Day and Zimbabwe's Financial Gazette political editor, Njabulo Ncube, cited the repressive media laws and poverty amongst journalists as biggest impediments in achieving investigative journalism.

Muleya said: “I would not want to take the easy line of bashing and accusing journalists that they have failed in investigative journalism given the fact that major stories have been broken in the post-independence era. Major stories were also broken since 2000 to date.

“However, the environment has also changed drastically post-independence with the promulgation of laws such as the Access to information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), Public Order and Security Act (POSA), Interception of Communications Act (ICA) among others, so the environment has also contributed to the challenges facing investigative journalists today,” said Muleya who is also Assistant Editor at the Zimbabwe Independent, adding that there was no story worth dying for.

“In this environment that we operate in, journalists are intelligent people who conduct a cost benefit analysis and also weigh the consequences on whether to proceed and write a story. 

“For example, upon realising that you are two days away from Christmas, you first have to ask yourself, do I really need to write this story and spend the rest of the holiday locked up?”

Misa Zimbabwe advocacy officer Tabani Moyo said media laws were aimed at stifling access to information and freedom of expression as guaranteed in section 20 of the Zimbabwean constitution.

“Our thrust therefore is to continue agitating for a situation whereby media freedom is explicitly protected in the constitution.” Moyo said a constitutional provision explicitly guaranteeing media freedom would go a long way towards freeing the media space for investigative journalism. 

There are several challenges that Zimbabwean journalists are facing at the moment. Recent researches have suggested that the country’s local journalists are the least paid and are susceptible to receiving bribes to survive.

The erosion of skills and flight of experienced journalists from the country at the height of political instability have added to the problems that the journalists are facing.

However, there is renewed optimism among diehard publishers that once media reforms have been implemented, newspapers would be able attract skilled staff although recently an editor of a prospective daily was fired for allegedly failing to build a strong and credible editorial team.