Online diasporic political spheres: inside the emerging spaces for Zimbabweans

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Pongo, Brilliant
  • Subject: UOW9

The study investigates how online media are contributing to democracy in Africa. It is interested in the growing online media spaces and their democratic promise. The case study is on diasporic media by citizens from troubled Zimbabwe, whose mass media environment remained a subject of much debate. Between 2000 and 2009, many Zimbabwean local independent media organisations were banned from reporting from within the country and many ordinary Zimbabweans were forced to seek economic and political refuge in South Africa, Britain, Australia, USA and many other countries. Some journalists were arrested and most researchers linked this to the erosion of democracy under the ZANU PF government, which has been in power since 1980.1 A new opposition challenged ZANU PF monopoly of political power but fiercely contested elections saw the diasporic media engage with Zimbabwe issues more and more. Faced with an intransigent political situation, Zimbabwe’s three main political parties2 agreed a coalition/inclusive government in February 2009, as an interim measure. In the main, diasporic media continued to call for the removal of restrictions imposed on the media3. This is not to rule out differences amongst Zimbabweans abroad. Zimbabweans abroad seek to promote a more pluralistic media approach and operate websites transnationally, and in ways that have begun to challenge the existing media monopoly in Zimbabwe. Influential diasporic sites include newzimbabwe.com, zimdaily.com, talkzimbabwe.com, zimbabwemetro.com thezimbabwean.com and thezimbabwetimes.com. My study is focused on the use of internet communication forms for democratic purposes by such groups. The aim of the research is to ask how such new media is influencing traditional forms of control of information by political and economic groups in Zimbabwe. The research will argue that new media technologies have the potential to allow users, mainly those in the Diaspora, increased opportunities to share and develop participate in current affairs and politics. While the state has tightened its grip on the old media (e.g. radio, print press and television) new media technologies have enabled their users to undermine the government’s monopoly on information distribution. The tight legislative response of the state is a testament to the effectiveness of these forms of new media. The main thrust of this study will be to investigate new internet sites and their role in Zimbabwean democracy, using Zimdaily.com as a case study. The work contributes to work on the role of African Diasporic Media in Democratic Processes, on the one hand, while on the other hand, it is also about New ICTs and Democracy in Africa.
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