ZIM MEDIA IN GAY STORM!

An analysis of Zimbabwean media’s coverage of LGBTI issues from 2010-2020

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Abstract

Background: The media landscape in Zimbabwe has been dominated by the state from television to print. This dominance allowed the state to use news media as a tool to propagate its policy choices. Queer issues have been reflected from a state’s perspective in the media however the decade starting from 2010 saw new players emerging both online and in print. With new players a new tone of covering queer issues emerged and this action content analysis seeks to understand this new reality.

Methods: Qualitative descriptive content analysis of 200 Zimbabwean news articles which covered queer related subjects for the period 2010 to 2020 was conducted. The researcher developed a grounded double coding frame incorporating emergent themes from the data and consolidate it for results, final conclusions and recommendations.

Results: State media and tabloids linked to the state enflames and sensationalize queer issues. Queer voices are missing in the majority of news articles and commentaries. The media in Zimbabwe generally over politicize their coverage with an exception of tabloids which scandalizes most of queer stories. The coverage of queer themes is mainly triggered by events and they mostly feature in the top news category in the days succeeding a particular event or a politician’s comments.

Conclusions: The media politicize, sensationalizes and sexualizes reporting on queer people and queer issues. Most of the misreporting and lack of factual contextualization may be attributed to lack of skills and best journalistic standards. In general the reporting on queer people is not wholly negative, private media has commendably mild positive coverage with human rights and equality frames dominating their reporting.

Recommendations: Opportunities to get a better standing in the media should be met by preparation through social awareness and wide reading of related political and social developments. Activists and individual queer people are recommended to fight back through organized digital and offline campaigns targeting specific news articles, financers, journalists, advertisers and media houses in order to enhance the quality of the news and reporting on LGBTI Issues.

Key terms and definitions

In this section I have outlined some definitions of terms and for those which I did not define I did so under the assumption that the terms have had a consistent use which earned them a stable commonly understood meanings. 

LGBTI is the acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex. It has often been expanded to include Asexual, Questioning, Allies and Pansexual in this study I constantly interchanged it with queer a term which has gained prominence as an umbrella term to define people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities which are not specifically heterosexual, in this use however some still take the word in its derogatory historical terms and for those I apologize.

Gender identity is a person’s perception of their gender and how they choose to identify themselves, i.e. man, woman or gender neutral.

Gender expression is the outer manifestation of a person’s gender identity, often expressed via clothing, haircut, voice, behavior or body characteristics. Sexual orientation relates to a person’s physical attraction to another person. Gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same because transgender people can be straight, gay or bisexual.

Key Words

Queer, Gay, Homosexual, Lesbian, Zimbabwe, Mugabe, Media, LGBTI, Human Rights, Coverage, State Media, Private Media, Online Media

Introduction

At the beginning of October 2010 the Ugandan publication Rolling Stone published photos, names and addresses of 100 Ugandan queer people including David Kato then the director of Sexual Minorities Uganda. The article ran with the headline “Hang the Gays” [1] and three months later on 26 January 2011 David Kato was murdered in a hate motivated crime. This horrific story demonstrate the power of the media, the cost of a particular editorial tone and the gravity of words propagated by the media. 

This incident did not happen in a vacuum but in a social space characterized by different social forces all amplified or suppressed by the media. Queer issues have been part of the media in Uganda for a noticeable time and the frame of reporting has been evidently building up to the sort of extreme witnessed in 2011 Namusoga (2016). Just like in Uganda, elsewhere in Africa media coverage of LGBTI issues has been overly negative Pellot (2019) however this negativity for years has been evaluated from a subjective perspective because of lack of comprehensive studies into the nuanced aspects of this coverage. 

Namusoga (2016) in her doctoral thesis investigated the coverage of the media on LGBTI issues in Uganda and she authenticated the existence of negative press coverage of queer stories however her study was limited to two papers which evidently does not represent a large portion of the Ugandan media space. Pellot (2019) attempted a broader generalized look into the media coverage in a number of African countries and the coverage was noted to be consistent with assumptive conclusions from activists that media coverage is overly negative, however this content analysis was too broad, it used small sample of articles (36) and it was more interested in ascertaining the tone of coverage not the broader variables of media coverage. Building from these frames this study bridges between speculative assumptions about Zimbabwean media coverage of queer issues and reality as it presents itself. However to embark in such a study a little background of media coverage of queer issues in Zimbabwe was explored. 

A demonstrable record of media coverage of LGBTI issues in Zimbabwe can be traced back to the emergence of the 1980s Harare gay scene. In Goddard’s recollection (Goddard, 2005) early stories specifically covering local queer people were published in April 1986 by The Herald and The Sunday Mail on the gay wedding which was claimed to have happened. Goddard noted however that the coverage was uncharacteristically neutral. Before 2010, the newspapers with the widest circulation in Zimbabwe were the state-controlled newspapers The Herald and its sister papers, The Sunday Mail, The Chronicle and The Sunday Gazette which were and still widely regarded as government propaganda mouth pieces. 

Early on in the 1980s and 1990s before Mugabe took the gays matter to prominence through continued attacks, comments about queer people in newspapers were generally restricted to letters from religious bigots and a regular column in The Sunday Mail, “It’s a Weird Weird World” often ran serious foreign articles about successes in the international gay rights movement Goddard (2005). This non-coverage included paid advertisement as Goddard (2005) explained, in 1993 when an attempt to advertise the help-line for Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) counselling service was rejected by The Herald on the grounds that the paper is a “family newspaper and does not run contact adverts for sex.” This demonstrated the “sexualized” view the paper or the state has on anything linked to queer people. 

Another highlight from this background is the look at the events leading to headlines and media coverage. In January 1994 for example when GALZ managed to run its counselling advertisements in the classifieds column of The Daily Gazette and a reporter from the publication asked to interview someone from GALZ on the 29th of January 1994 and the interview happened later that day. However an unidentified man who was later identified as The Daily Gazette staffer called using the help-line number and threatened the counselling officer who was interviewed with deportation. The following day The Daily Gazette ran a headline article declaring “POLICE WARN HOMOS–Net is closing in.” The article published information about a social meeting of GALZ members which was supposed to be held seven days later and the meeting was cancelled because of fears of a police raid Goddard (2005).

In the same context of triggers of coverage on January 11th, 1995, The Herald quoted the Home Affairs Minister Dumiso Dabengwa in which he assured the Zimbabwe Council of Churches that as far as the Government was concerned, homosexuality was “abhorrent” and should be banned. The following Sunday on the 15th of January A Sunday Mail editorial warned of the pernicious influence of the West, seven days later on January 22, 1995, the weekly paper wrote on the attempt by William Courson of The Magnus Hirschfeld Centre for Human Rights in the United States to take the Zimbabwean government to the African Court of Justice for violations against homosexuals. 12 days later on February 3, 1995, The Chronicle Editorial quoting Mugabe himself assuring the nation that his government will protect people from the abominable and destructive ideas put forth by those lobbying for the rights of homosexuals and prostitutes and from this blip appearance of LGBTI/Queer issues in the state media a whole new era of over politicization of LGBTI issues was born Goddard (2005). When Mugabe comes to the picture with his constant attacks on LGBTI people, as the president his comments were featured in the media regularly ever since and in general the LGBTI coverage by the state media has been overly reliant on the position of the state and specifically Mugabe. Unfortunately this media framing was cemented by the 1999 over politicized prosecution of the former Zimbabwean President Canaan Banana for an array of offences linked to homosexuality. 

This documented start of state media coverage of LGBTI issues shaped the media coverage for the years to come until new and reputable private print media players flood the media landscape post the Global Political Agreement 0f 2009 which ushered in a power-sharing government which lasted for five years. Considering the uptake of online news and expansion of public presence online a new frontier of news production and consumption was born. There are no researches to ascertain if the return of the Daily News and the emergence of Alpha Media Holdings publications and sprouting of online news media has changed anything in the tone of state media however what is certain is that new media players provided more information to a more readily available Zimbabwean audience and with improved visibility of queer people the presence of queer stories in the media become significant. 

Purpose of study

This is an action research by an activist for activists necessitated by lack of conclusive studies which show the state of media coverage of queer issues in Africa and specifically in Zimbabwe. A review of existing literature reveals this absence of studies which investigates the coverage of queer issues in African media, very few studies such as Namusoga(2016) and Pellot (2019) come closer to reveal the real state of media coverage however they both fall short in two distinctive ways. Namusoga (2016) covered only Uganda and her focus was only on two papers which unfortunately did not represent a large portion of the Ugandan pr. Pellot (2019) attempted to cover a larger geographical area however that reduced the reliability of the conclusions because only a few articles were drawn from specific countries and they were just thirty six (36) in total in a region where there is vast of content. 

Media coverage of LGBTI issues in Africa has for long been understood as minimal and negative because of limited researches on the topic and narrowness of existing studies however these two variables does not provide a clear and detailed picture of the real state of media coverage especially in different African societies. The triggers of media coverage have not been adequately looked into, the content has not been assessed to great lengths and representation has not been fully explored. 

The main purpose of this action study is to provide a clear picture to activists and queer organizations on how queer issues have been covered by the Zimbabwean media with an intention of stimulating action strategies which can be effective in advancing the rights and life situations of queer Zimbabweans. There is wide understanding that government policies and public behavior responds to public opinion and public opinion is significantly influenced by other socio-political actors through the media. By having considerable attention to what the media covers we are then able to come up with effective plans to influence the public discourse. Conta et al (2017) said that higher positive media exposure levels foster more accepting attitudes which at the end is the prime goal of all queer organizing. Calzo and Ward (2009) concluded that, attitudes towards homosexuality are not inborn, but are socialized and the media is a core part of the socialization process. To have an influence in the media we need to understand things as they are and this study is closing.

Methodology

The study adopted a grounded content analysis methodology allowing a more in-depth look into the news articles, editorials and commentaries published by the media in the period 2010 to 2020. The methodology uncover reality as it exists, in this study it was juxtaposed with discourse analysis which is set to uncover reality as it is produced as Hardy, Harley and Phillips (2004) outlined. This allows the researcher to illuminate patterns and trends that are not immediately observable without a focused analysis. The transparency and replicability of this model created a possibility of producing more reliable results at a low cost Krippendorf (1989) and Neuendorf (2004). (Cavanagh, 1997) added that content analysis as a flexible method for analyzing text. To establish developing themes and reach results and conclusions the grounded theory was utilized in its basic terms as Corbin & Strauss (1998) describes it as a procedure of coding textual materials (e.g. a more inductive open coding process and a more deductive axial coding process) and defining the codes with memos. The aim has been to come to a concrete theoretical model by means of an explorative process. 

Content

This study focuses on the analysis of traditional print media (newspapers) and online news platforms reporting on Zimbabwe and with a readership composed mainly of Zimbabweans and its diaspora. Newspapers are widely read in Zimbabwe’s main urban centers, particularly Harare and Bulawayo even though they are mostly bought by relatively affluent people who can afford them each copy sold passes through the hands of many readers. Online news platforms are also mainly accessed by middle income families however the simplicity of copying allows the wide spreading of the news articles and columns through the mainly used private chat application WhatsApp giving online news a wider reach. 

To broaden the net of analysis this study considers news articles and columns published between 2010 and 2020 when Zimbabwe’s then only private newspapers was back in print and also when a new publication News Day was established together with its sister publications. The period from 2010 also saw the expansion of digital media to levels which gave them legitimacy in the broader media landscape. 

Newspapers

40 articles and columns were taken from The Herald, The Chronicle and ZimPapers’ weekly publication The Sunday Mail, together they are the leading newspapers in Zimbabwe. The Herald is distributed in all major cities and towns, but reaches much further afield, targeting a fairly broad readership. The Chronicle which is published in Bulawayo also had a fair reach and The Sunday Mail has a wide reach across the country compared to other weeklies. As one of the key asserts of the state media the papers are also understood as a mouth pieces of the state. 

Newsday and its sister publications contributed 40 articles and columns. Newsday is Zimbabwe’s leading independent daily newspaper which was launched in June 2010 by Alpha Media Holdings which also publishes The Standard, a Sunday newspaper, and The Zimbabwe Independent, a business weekly all of which have been seen as a counter balance to the state’s domination in the media industry. 

The Daily News which resumed publishing as a daily newspaper in March 2011 after a nine-year absence from the newsstands following the bombing of its printing press in 2002 and subsequent banning in 2003 contributed 20 articles. 

The study also looked into the ZimPapers published daily tabloids H-Metro and B-Metro which are published in Harare and Bulawayo respectively. Both newspapers specialize in salacious stories of scandal and gossip. The two papers have a good following by the youthful urban population and has a great influence in the portrayal of issues by the population. 40 articles were analyzed from the two tabloids spatially covering the 10 years under study, noting that their coverage of queer subjects has been disproportionally higher than any other publications.

Online news platforms

Nehanda Radio (nehandaradio.com) is one of the longest serving online news publications focusing on Zimbabwe. 20 articles were drawn from the website. 

New Zimbabwe (www.newzimbabwe.com) established in 2003 also extensively cover Zimbabwean issues and 20 articles were drawn from this website for analysis. 

Bulawayo24 (www.bulawayo24.com) presents news stories from Zimbabwe and around the world. Its initial focus on sex, scandal and celebrity has developed into a broader socio-political coverage of Zimbabwean issues. 20 articles and columns were drawn from Bulawayo24. 

20 additional articles and columns were drawn from relatively new comers but prominent online news platforms such as Zim Live (zimlive.co.zw), Pindula News, iHarare, Zimdiaspora due to their reach and prominence. 

Theoretical Foundations

Despite an insistence on my departure from rigid academic methodologies and concepts, this study did not start from a tabula rasa but from a well-established theoretical understanding of the media and its operations. These theoretical understandings of the role of the media in shaping the public discourse also necessitated the need for this study. The main theoretical themes incorporated here are the cultivation theory, the framing theory and the agenda setting theory. 

The cultivation theory elaborates the effects of one’s long-term, prolonged exposure with the media. The portrayals of positive or negative examples of queer people in the media influences the beliefs that being queer is either abnormal, rare, shocking and problematic or normal, frequent and accepted based on the content. In this case the content, tone and frequency of LGBTI coverage in the media becomes important and this study looked into the themes which have been cultivated by the media in Zimbabwe for the decade from 2010 to 2020. 

Framing theory states that the media focuses on certain topics and delivers information on them in a motive conscious way. The media is said to highlight specific events and place them in a certain context to either encourage or discourage interpretations. Because of this, the media produces a particularly selective influence in the way people view reality as they read it in media. Thus, the way stories about homosexual issues are framed also plays a large role in what ends up being viewed, in turn affecting the attitudes of the viewers to come out of it. For example, the attitudes emerging from the news of a teacher getting death threats for coming out would be significantly altered if news stories include condescending and negative language or bias. The concept of framing is analytically useful in illuminating how ideas are generated, diffused and mobilized Benford & Snow, (2000). 

Agenda setting theory explains the ability of the news media to influence the importance of topics on the public agenda. For example, when random homophobic tweets gets media coverage the public perceive attention of LGBTI issues as important hence leading to people to regard it as prominent, news worthy and important issue. Research has demonstrated the key role that media play in political agenda setting by choosing which stories and issues are reported on, and then how those issues are covered McCombs & Shaw, (1974); Gamson & Modigliani, (1989).

Results

ON ISSUES THAT MATTER: THE CONSTITUTION MAKING PROCESS 

The constitution making process during the years of the Inclusive Government generated more LGBTI related news articles in the past ten years than any other issue. The public statement in support for LGBTI rights by the then Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and human rights groups’ push for clear wording of the bill of rights created the political fuel needed to keep the story in the public discourse. State Media did not shy away from revealing the agenda setting connotations in their reporting, declarative statements and unfiltered and non-contextualized politicians statements were published raw. Headlines such as ‘No room for gay rights in new Constitution’ [2] and No space for gay rights in constitution: Chinamasa [3] signifies the tone in which the state media covered developments in the final structuring of the bill of rights of the 2013 constitution. Private media attempted to provide a more balanced coverage however online media put a dose of dramatic sensationalism by capturing small details and carrying them to be headlines such as: If you want gay rights to be included, we also want Satanism included – Zanu-PF [4]. And this direct quotations with little context tend to be misleading as Bulawayo 24’s story: Zimbabwe’s new constitution will guarantee gay rights [5]. Topics not related to the constitution making process were linked to it in some way as demonstrated by a story of the MDC-T mayor of the city of Bulawayo who accepted donations from a civil society organization advocating for sexual and reproductive health and inclusivity. The Chronicle’s story with the headline Mayor should have rejected gift from homosexuals [6] carried repeated and unsubstantiated assertion that MDC-T’s Copac team tried to sneak in gay rights issue into the new draft constitution. And it concluded in political terms that “The mayor has just put his foot into his mouth just like Mr Tsvangirai.” In general all publications showed keen interests in reporting on queer issues during the constitution making process and the political developments surrounding it.

FOREVER IN THE SHADOW OF MUGABE 

The shadow of Mugabe looms large on Zimbabwean LGBTI news reporting with his name and his famous statement “less than pigs and dogs” featuring in over a quarter of news articles and opinions analyzed for this study. His direct quotations made headlines Gay rights are not human rights – Mugabe [7], protests about his homophobia Gays, lesbians angry with Mugabe [8], his ordinary moves to address international events Mugabe comes face-to-face with gays [9] and even in death his quotes survived Mugabe’s Quotable Quotes (6 Sep 2019)” [10]. The dominance of Mugabe in LGBTI reporting can be seen from almost non-political stories which end up having quotes from Mugabe, one such story is a News Day article with the title Ex-Amakorokoza star planning to get married [11] where the writer wrote that “(name of actor) might be a man President Robert Mugabe will never like to listen to talking following a public revelation that he is gay”. The invocation of Mugabe’s quotes or perceived opinions has been noted in both print and online media however H-Metro and B-Metro’s reporting did not mention Mugabe often earning to their focus on short catchy scandalous stories. 

The 18th International Conference on Aids and STIs (sexually transmitted infections) (Icasa) in Africa of 2015 hosted in Harare generated unusual coverage and it was mainly dominated by the existence of gays at event with the private media celebrating that Mugabe forced to host gays, lesbians [12] and some wrote Mugabe comes face-to-face with gays [13]. Viewed in the context of Mugabe’s homophobia and publicly declared hatred of the queer people it was shocking that Mugabe was going to address an event headlined for equality where the LGBTI community is well represented. The attention on one individual politician overshadowed the whole conference coverage and that alone shows the over politicization and Mugabe’s dominance in LGBTI issues in Zimbabwean media.

IT’S ALL POLITICS 

Politicians remain headliners on issues of LGBTI people, their words, actions and inaction on LGBTI issues end up in the news. Their position on LGBTI issues is reported Chamisa, Mnangagwa shut door on gays [14], their efforts to distance themselves from allegations Jonathan Moyo speaks on his alleged gay affair with Alum Mpofu [15], their threats Minister urges eviction of people who support gays [16] attacks against them, Tsvangirai should be stoned to death: Sibanda [17] and their accusations Mliswa demands trial over ministers’ gay storm [18]. The majority of the articles and opinions analyzed either commented on politicians, quoted politicians or were directed at politicians. 

Notably state media’s reporting of LGBTI issues has been mainly political with headlines naming or quoting politicians, political players and institutions. A snapshot of headlines such as: Is pro-gay statement a publicity stunt? [19] , Cameron influences Tsvangirai’s gay rights stance [20], Tsvangirai embraces gay rights [21] Outrage over PM’s gay talk [22] and many others shows political undertones which shades certain political players as problems. In most cases these articles misrepresented facts for example on Tsvangirai’s comment about inclusion of human rights provisions for LGBTI people in the constitution The Herald of 31st October 2011 with the headline Cameron influences Tsvangirai’s gay rights stance [23] the publication emphasized that “PM Tsvangirai recently visited the UK where he was afforded a platform on BBC News to talk about gay rights,…” insinuating that he was afforded the platform specifically for that purpose which was not the case. The Herald in contextualizing Mugabe’s statement in a news article titled Gays will be severely punished [24] somehow managed to invoke Mugabe’s opponent the then Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, by highlighting that he got married the same week he has been on record advocating the protection of gays and lesbians’ rights in the constitution in which the publication added unsubstantiated claims that his remarks have resulted in Zimbabweans condemning him for trying to promote European values and that there are efforts by his party in Copac [A parliamentary committee tasked to draft the 2013 constitution] to smuggle gay rights into the new constitution disguised as minority rights. In general state media articles seek links which can attack political opponent as demonstrated again in a an article carried by The Chronicle which claimed that City pastor condemns [25] where they went on to say “He did not mention Mr Tsvangirai by name, but made oblique reference to the Prime Minister whom Copac members claimed had tried to smuggle the issue of homosexuals into the constitution” a claim the state media had repeated over and over again without sustained evidence. 

Private print and online media also showed partisan and factional politics in a significant number of articles. The upsurge of articles were notable when a particular politician or political player did something or says something in relation to LGBTI people or issues. One such instant is when Temba Mliswa attacked fellow ZANU-PF members labeling them “gay gangsters” a popular attack term in Zimbabwean politics prompting the following headlines “Mliswa reiterates Kasukuwereclaims [26] and Zanu PF wars head to courts [27]. Accusations and counter accusations in parliament end up in newspapers Gays debate spills into Parliament [28] One sided declarative statements dominated reports on politicians making statements and in most cases politicians are quoted with no filter even when they say homophobic or threatening statements for example I will not persecute gays: Tsvangirai [29] the story carried no further contextualization and I will behead gays: Mugabe [30] the threatening statement was not filtered nor contextualized.

Exploitation of quotes is regular in Zimbabwean media, private print media and state media often exploit quotes to create a political narrative and online media and state run tabloids often exploit quotes to sensationalize the story. In a Bulawayo 24 story with the headline 90% Zimbabwean gays struggle to find love [31] where Gays and Lesbians Zimbabwe (GALZ) programs manager a broad story of the struggles of LGBTI people however the headline picked the most sensational and irrelevant aspect of the story. Bulawayo 24 exploited a quote in the following article about mistreatment of journalists in media houses (At least 50 Zimbabwean journalists gay, claim [32]) A well intentioned quote “I was surprised when quite a number of both male and female journalists came to our office saying they are gay or lesbians and they were being victimized in newsrooms, but l must confess that we do not know how to incorporate this into our programs considering how the issue has been handled by our political leaders in the country and, honestly, I would like members to have a say on the way forward” was boiled down to a number (50) mentioned in passing. New Zimbabwe wrote Zim traditional chiefs ‘admit’ living with gays [33] quoting a phrase used in passing. Simple quotations were given significance due to wording and framing the News Day ran a headline Sipepa Nkomodefends gay rights [34] Which they reported saying “Lobengula MP Samuel Sipepa Nkomo (MDC-T) has thrown his weight behind gay rights” whilst his actual quotes says “He (MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai) simply wants their (gays’) basic human rights to be upheld,” Nkomo said in support of the Prime Minister who was attacked for opinionating that he would want to see LGBTI rights in the constitution. In general publications analyzed showed keenness to sensationalize stories to give political significance or attention. 

POLITICAL COLUMNS AND OPINIONS 

Opinion pieces and columns remain treasure troves of political posturing with attack articles coming from some of the people in the extremes of their socio-political views. State media carried the most anti-LGBTI and outright homophobic opinions and columns such as Gay Myths: Question of values and morality, not human rights [35] most crude political attack articles like ‘Gay rights’ — we hear you PM [36]. In Gay Myths: Question of values and morality, not human rights there were solid attacks on Tsvangirai with statements such as “Prime Minister’s utterances,…” and ”…we do not allow us to sanitize the unsanitizable, and legitimize the unacceptable.” In ‘Gay rights’ — we hear you PM the writer claimed that “Tsvangirai wants the one percent that occupied our land and its resources in 1890 to occupy our bedrooms and prescribe their sexual orientation today.” In this petri-dish of political attacks The Saturday Herald’s Manheru stands out as the most dominant with attacks on Tsvangirai and the LGBTI community. Nathaniel Manheru in an article titled MDCs: When talk passes boardrooms into bedrooms [37] attacked Tsvangirai saying he is “the man who does not seem to know when to play Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, and when to be a pathetic party president.” In Nothing right about ‘gay rights’ [38] he declared that “Our very own Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has not been left out in this outrageous nonsense” further accusing him of dancing to the tune of whoever is paying his air ticket at any given time and that “donor funding is the fuel that runs the MDC leader’s engine.” More attacks on Tsvangirai were put in direct contrast with Mugabe showing explicitly the political undertones of the writers as in Gay rights ain’t our top priority [39] where the article claimed that “Tsvangirai stirred a hornet’s nest when he told the BBC’s Newsnight programme that he wanted to see homosexuality enshrined in the country’s new constitution” few paragraphs later the article praise Mugabe for being “a real leader who stand firm on principle, and anointed by God and concluded by saying “I don’t see God anointing Tsvangirai and his pro-gay stance.” Opinions and columns in state run papers did not shy away from their support for whatever position the government has and their support for the president and ZANU-PF especially during the Inclusive Government Years. Opinions and columns in private print and online media on the other hand proved to be mixed with some pushing back on state media’s narrative whilst a minority remain critical of certain opposition players and human right for LGBTI people.

Online media and private print media demonstrated clear departure from the Mugabe doctrine by providing platforms for activist columns and opinions. A 2010 article by Daniel Molokele a human rights activist titled Gay rights are human rights too! [40] in Nehanda Radio and Grace Kwinjeh’s “Of gay rights and a sinking titanic in Zimbabwe [41] on the same platform the following year demonstrated that activist opinion pieces have a platform in online media. In these articles activists provided more nuanced versions of the LGBTI conversation and political leadership in Zimbabwe. Kwinjeh wrote that “Prime Minister and president of the Movement for Democratic Change, Morgan Tsvangirai is a leader in a nation that is diverse; made up of people who have differing religious, cultural and political beliefs” signaling the need for leaders to be inclusive and accommodating to all. By affording activists these platforms private media offers an avenue for more engagements in the public discourse. Protest attack articles were also noted especially on online media where anti-Mugabe rhetoric was rampant. Nehanda Radio wrote Mugabe’s ‘gay gangsters’ exposed [42] detailing alleged LGBTI people linked to Zanu Pf (Journalists, ministers and MPs) the article among others demonstrated targeted political attack writing. In one news article Nehanda Radio invoked politics and advocated the firing of the then deputy editor of one ZimPapers tabloid H-Metro after he was alleged to have been found having sex with a male partner in the article titled Mugabe blows top over gay state journalist [43] Nehanda radio wrote “The assistant editor … faces dismissal after being caught red-handed bonking a male hooker during a Presidential trip to Windhoek, Namibia.” In what can be described as a way to reveal the hypocrisy of the state and its media houses. 

IT’S US VS THEM 

The state run papers displays an us versus them frame of reporting with the “them” frame repeated in almost all articles, LGBTI people were put in contrast with “Zimbabweans” as if they are not Zimbabwean, supporters of equality were labeled western puppets and the western support for LGBTI Africans was contextualized from an imperialistic framing. One opinion article with the title Gay parties Western, not human rights [44] declared that “it is puzzling that an independent African country that has unfettered claim to self-determination could be ostracized for merely deciding to criminalize a practice that widely frowned upon in African custom and conscience,…” it added what historians have well established to be false that anti-gay bills were “simply translating African culture into law.” The “us versus them” framing was mainly noted in state media published opinions and columns chief among them The Saturday Herald’s Natahniel Manheruwho in his praise for Mugabe and Africans and his attacks Westerns, opposition players and even United Nations diplomats maintains that anything related to the LGBTI community is not for “us”. In an April 5th 2015 opinion he tasked his readers to “imagine R.G. (Mugabe) sitting nonchalantly (…), taking in meekly and mutely this (pro-LGBTI) message from an European gay prime minister — apparently the second one on that accursed subcontinent — to say to African leaders, ‘please accord homosexuality the status of primary rights’, or else we, the Europeans ‘will not tolerate it’?” The political connotations of opinion articles beyond Nathaniel Manheru were evident with one opinion in The Sunday Mail titled The bane of gay gangsterism [45] declaring that “If you did not feel a sense of pride and elation when President Mugabe told the whole world at the UN recently that “we are not gays”, then you are either not Zimbabwean or more appropriately, you are a poofter.” News articles such as Zim rejects gay rights proposals [46] and Zimbabwe resists gay rights push [47] normalize the “othering” of LGBTI people by labelling them as not “us” and certainly not “Zimbabwean”. All in all state media created a narrative that there is an enemy somewhere be it westerns, gays or political puppets who are about to attack, imperfect or corrupt the pure Zimbabwean tradition, culture and religion.

“THEY” EXIST: VISIBILITY NOTICED 

ZimPapers just like other publications did not shy away from admitting the existence of queer people in Zimbabwe, in some cases they highlighted their existence for example in an article titled “Of Hifa and gays” [48] published in 2013. In the articled The Staff Reporter described in detail gay scenes at the Harare International Festival of Arts saying : “Inside the Harare International Festival of the Arts’ Coca-Cola Green Stage where many people were drinking and making merry, evidence of gay couples and male-females was everywhere. Close to the stage, was a group who, from afar, looked like women in bright coloured tight jeans and tight-fitting tops and jackets while a closer look revealed a shocking group of about seven men who were evidently “drag queens” considering the way they were shouting and screaming at the artistes like female groupies. This was a common sight at the Hifa, which ended early last month.” Over the past generations, gays and lesbians have moved from hiding their sexual orientation to publicly displaying the act, a development that has worried many Christians and traditionalists.” However this acknowledgment did correspond to clear standing and platform for voice in the article, queer voices were not given platform however the writer chose to quote traditional leaders and spiritual healers in an article about queer people. Just like other state media articles the article focused on government efforts to restrict or erase LGBTI issues from public life. Furthermore the article accused queer people of being un-African, a western import, un-Christian and unnatural perpetuating the traditional political attacks which have been normalized in Zimbabwe.

SHE EXIST: COVERAGE OF A TRANS ACTIVIST 

Recurrent themes of mis-gendering revolves around transgender and human rights activist Ricky Nathanson whose activism and subsequent legal battles with the state captured attention of the media than any other individual queer Zimbabwe. The mis-gendering and sensationalization of sexuality issues were noted both in state and private media. In a tabloid like nature The Chronicle run the story of her arrest with the headline “Protruding manhood exposes gay activist [49] this in contrast to News Day’s headline Zanu PF youth arrests suspected gay [50] shows the sensational inclinations of state media and political highlights of private media. The court proceedings too gained attention, Nehanda Radio in a sensational tone wrote “Gay shemale causes stir in court [51]” Up to the end of the cases media attention was notable, Bulawayo 24 wrote Zimbabwe gay activist wins toilet war [52] talking of her acquittal and later in the counter suit by Nathanson New Zimbabwe reported Zim transgender wins compensation for illegal detention [53]. Interests in her activism saw attention given to some issues such as international accolades which was the case with the report Zim transgender Ricky Nathanson wins US award [54]. The general observation is that legal troubles breeds bad coverage and legal and legal victories and accolades breeds positive coverage and above all legal issues creates visibility because coverage on donations and other community based initiatives only got attention when it got political as the case with the Bulawayo donations story referred here [6].

THEY EXIST EVEN IN “OUR” SCHOOLS 

One of the stories which generated a lot of news, columns and opinion pieces was the coming out, resignation and subsequent move to the US of the St John’s deputy head Neal Novelmeier. The introduction of the story to the public discourse was massive with headlines such as Top Zim school in homosexual storm [55] from the Daily News, Posh Harare school head reveals he is gay [56] New Zimbabwe, Zimlive said ‘I’m gay’, teacher declares at assembly of top Harare boys school [57] and Nehanda Radio says Top Zim school in homosexual storm [58]. The support that followed was also widely reported in private owned media publications. New Zimbabwe reported that GALZ backs gay school head but cautions safety before homosexual disclosure [59], Daily News said Online support for gay teacher [60] echoing the same reporting as the New Zimbabwe which said Gay St Johns school head gets online support [61]. The interests in the story stays until he resigns New Zimbabwe, Nehanda Radio, ZimLive and other online platforms reported his resignation mentioning that this was due to death threats. In the articles the contextualization was fair with emphasis on the homophobic environment in Zimbabwe. Bulawayo 24 among others reported his move to the United States republishing The HavardGazzette article. The coverage of the events surrounding the educator’s coming out, resignation and move to the US demonstrated that the media follows stories when they prove to be controversial and notably the media sensationalizes the story in their headlines to generate more interests in the story.

WE DO NOT KNOW 

Lack of understanding by journalists in covering LGBTI issues was noted widely in all publications. One story may carry the right headline and LGBTI voice but perpetuates stereotypes and the one which is informative may be misgendering people. The general poor reporting could not be ascertained if they are deliberate or because of lack of adequate knowledge however the later seems plousable especially private media. The News Day for example in an article published on 07 August 2010 titled Gays: Is this learned or inborn behaviour? [64] the writer in preparation of the story grossly invaded people’s privacy by going on a dating website where the writer said “came face to face with an interesting posting” after he Google searched a friend’s son who had left Zimbabwe for greener pastures overseas finding the person he wrote that the “advert” reads “I am a hot chocolate, six- footer, loves men, cooking and would like to date men from all walks of life.” Then the writer went on to explain “I called the boy’s father who was visibly shocked when I showed him these details.” Furthering the stereo typical sweeping assertions saying “there is also some school of thought that claims that one sex schools were driving schoolchildren into same sex relationships…” because the young man mentioned in his story is a former student of a famous Harare all-boys school. The article invoked Mugabe’s quotes and sweeping stereotypical quotes. B-Metro in many articles and one in particular Magwegwe residents up in arms over gay parties [65], the publication quoted an unnamed source whose submissions were sweeping allegations such as “only gays, lesbians and aspiring members were invited to the parties and party organizers were members of the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) which recruits people by asking potential members to visit their clinic in the city for screening for infections then If they are cleared at the health center, they are then included in the membership of GALZ and start getting even financial support.” The gravity of evidently false allegations deserve an authentic and identifiable source especially given that those accused were not given room for proper voicing before print. 

Furthermore Zimbabwean media uses the word gay to mean any queer individual, lesbians, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and other queer people were silent in the analyzed articles. In comparison to the word gay was used to represent the community as a whole, lesbian was used in a few tabloid articles and trans gender was used in few print media articles and the rest were not encountered unless in terms of the abbreviation LGBTI. New Zimbabwe claimed that Gays sing ED praises, say President more engaging than Mugabe, opposition [66] The Standard said Gays praise Mnangagwa [67] News Day said Gays donation vanishes [68] and Daily News said Gays appeal for equal rights [69] all these in stories quoting or representing unions such as GALZ who represents the whole community. 

MEDIA IN OPINION STORMS 

Opinions and columns related to LGBTI people often follow major news reports about LGBTI people or issues. Just like the days of the constitutional process, the arrest of Ricky Nathanson and GALZ legal battles the story of the educator was followed by a scathing string of columns and opinions on LGBTI issues. Some opinions stand out for their detail and depth such as ZimLive’s opinion piece titled Gay teacher’s confession and child sexual grooming: it’s a very thin line [62]. The article attempted to shed light on the conservativeness of the Zimbabwean society and progressive need for openness. It summed up the back story which led to the events and attempted to provide educated information and suggestions going foward. News Day ran a more legalistic version of this opinion on the same day as the ZimLiveopinion piece (30 September 2018). In a column titled Homosexuality and criminality [63] the writer declared that “…there is no denying that the former St Johns deputy head teacher was very brave to bring the long overdue discussion back into the public fray” and she went on to say “now that the cat is out of the bag and people are talking about it again, it cannot be stuffed back into the bag, or to continue pretending there is no cat. “ The legalistic column addressed some of the issues often missed or ignored by journalists and the public Notably the legal state of LGBTI people whom the media tend to paint as banned and the question of LGBTI people being natural sex predators. To the later question she wrote “fears (that LGBTI people are sex predators) are not backed up by any actual statistics. The statistics actually show that heterosexuals commit sex offences much more than homosexuals, but it is the homosexuals who are stigmatised.” Some articles in private media were not neither fair no factual, one such opinion was titled Why push schools into gay agendas? [64] in the Daily News. Notably opinion pieces were generated by the news reporting because as time goes columns and opinions did not mention the St John’s case in their articles and LGBTI issues die out in the opinions sections media for some time.

SPICE IT UP 

Sensationalism is the word which universally describes online news publications and Zim Papers Tabloids. Headlines which are catchy often with little information connected to the headline are common when they report on LGBTI issues. In a 2012 headline Nehanda Radio boldly reported that Cheating lesbian disowned by parents in Zimbabwe [70] Zimdiaspora.com sensationally claimed that Gay Herald journalists caught in the act [71] Whilst H-Metro put up headlines in all caps questioning GAY STUDENTS AT CUT? [72], naming and publishing pictures in a story that is incomplete, ‘I DON’T WANT TO BE GAY’ [73] in a story about a teenager trapped by alleged lover and ‘I ENJOY SEX WITH MEN’ [74] in an interview sourced story. B-Metro put statistics to a new sensational level by claiming that “Bulawayo gay men stats cause stir. . . “80% of men who patronise bars, red light district are sleeping with other men [75]. H-Metro and B-Metro however took sensationalism to a more scandalous form, they report scandals often and/or just create scandals out of nothing in their reporting. Headlines like Gays in love triangle storm [76] Gay storm as pictures of pair getting cosy leak [77] Married teacher pesters pupil for gay sex [78] AFM Gay storm reverend removed [79] AFM overseer in gay storm [80] Jilted man calls for arrest of lesbian fiancé [81] are common often publishing pictures and private chats of individuals. This quest for scandalious sensational stories led to misreporting for example in the story with a sensational headline Homosexuality storm tears family apart [82] the writer claimed that the development “…might tear the family to shreds…” of which the headline is speaking otherwise.

KNOW WHO THEY ARE 

State media including tabloids and online publications which overly reply on print media content publishes personal details of LGBTI people with little or no concern for the consequences of such publications. Zim PAPERS daily publication The Herald in a story with the headline GALZ boss summoned to court [83] published the address of one individual despite irrelevance of that detail to the story. In contrast the News Day covered the same story with better story contextualization and no private information published [Galzchairperson summoned to court [84] Tabloids H-Metro and B-Metro published several stories with private massages, pictures and locations of alleged LGBTI people these stories went on to be republished with the same information on New Zimbabwe, Nehanda Radio and other online platforms.

DO “THEY” BELONG TO A CRIMES SECTION? 

The crime sections of almost all publications often features stories on LGBTI issues due to the multiplicity of legal battles by LGBTI activists and organizations. GALZ legal battles for registration and right to operate dominated this reporting, in 2010 GALZ employees were arrested and it was reported by Nehanda Radio as follows Zimbabwe police arrest two employees of gay rights group [85] their court proceedings were covered Gay activists remanded in custody [86] (News Day 2010). When the offices and property was targeted the media reported it Zimbabwe gay offices shut down by police [87] (Bulawayo 24 – 2012) Gays demands property back [88] News Day reported as the court processes drag on, Galz chairperson summoned to court [84] The News Day also reported in 2014 when GALZ leadership was charged for running an unregistered organization in contravention of the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Act. Headlines such as Police launch blitz against gays [89] were noted several times when the police seem to target LGBTI people or GALZ as an organization. Real criminal cases such as those of rape when involving LGBTI people often get coverage in state media accompanied with political statements highlighting “it” as “a problem in society” The Herald reported that Gay tuck-shop owner jailed 12 years [90] and did little to highlight facts of the case which reveal the offence of rape not just being gay. This frame of reporting is in sync with their general misreporting that homosexuality is “banned” in Zimbabwe.

HIV/AIDS IS SERIOUS 

News articles and opinions from state media showed a more composed and objective reporting when reporting HIV/AIDS related issues even if they involve LGBTI people or issues. An opinion Reflecting on the Aids pandemic in Zimbabwe [91] and a news article on distribution of condoms in prisons (Condom distribution to prisons sparks religious, moral debate [92]) are such examples where the voice of LGBTI people was given a standing in the form of quotations. Even quotations of government officials are quoted admitting that “Homosexuality is happening in prisons and this has ignited the interest in ensuring that quality health care services are provided in correctional services so that they are not left out Prisons” (Deputy Commissioner Huggins AgreyMachingauta). State run tabloids also calmed their sensational tones when reporting on HIV and AIDS in a story Nac moots gay clinics [93] B-Metro calmly and consultatively reported that The National Aids Council (NAC) is set to establish five drop-in health centers around the country for men having sex with men (MSM) because of (…) the challenges they have been facing in accessing medical services and also the high HIV prevalence rate among gays and they quoted Gays and Lesbians Association of Zimbabwe (GALZ) as saying the move was progressive. 

The coverage of LGBTI issues on HIV and AIDS is almost uniform with private print and online media also taking the issue seriously demonstrating caution and effort to put voice of LGBTI people and more factual information compared to other stories. Daily News in a story titled ‘Govt double-faced over gays’ [94] provided a more detailed and balanced contextualization of the report highlighting that the LGBTI community have managed to engage government on SHSR issues and that it seems there is a lot that needs to be done for the community to be wholly accepted at public health institutions. This serious and authentic reporting was noted in all HIV and AIDS related articles analyzed for this study, these articles tend to be longer than ordinary news articles and quoting a wide range of sources including experts and LGBTI people or their representative organizations.

IN THE GOOD LIGHT 

Private media framed the LGBTI community from a sympathetic perspective and regularly invoking the human rights and equality reporting frames. News Day conducted several interviews and massive quotations from LGBTI people giving them full standing and voice in more articles in their publications. Full articles sourced from interviews were seen in News Day and Daily News more often, probing questions and general contextualization demonstrated a consideration for human rights as a frame of viewing LGBTI people. News Day’s story ‘Worse than dogs and pigs’: Life as a gay man in Zim [95] was a contextualized interview sourced story where the writer mentioned that Zimbabwe’s 2013 Constitution prohibits same-sex marriage, but is silent on gay relations a critical fact often missing in media reports. Apart from the main interview with the LGBTI person the story quoted a social scientist who said “The State media in particular, which publishes stories of the anti-gay ruling party politicians often attacking and castigating gays, has made life miserable for gays and lesbians, who then consequently suffer at the hands of politicians’ anti-gay rhetoric,” making it a more comprehensive story among others. In another article News Day wrote that Zimbabwe no safe haven for Homosexuals [96] in the article they highlighted that “the current Zimbabwe Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act makes specific sexual acts illegal not any particular sexual orientation. And again the article emphasized that the national media exacerbates the discriminatory attitude in Zimbabwe with homophobic statements by government leaders contributing to a misinformed, highly discriminatory socio-political environment. The Daily News carried several full interviews with LGBTI people, giving them full voice and fair probing questions coupled with informational contextualization one such articles was titled ‘Gays, lesbians also love God’ [97] which was an Interview with a GALZ representative. GALZ programming also featured in private print media in the same way other institutions gets coverage. In September 2019 The Standard reported that GALZ targets universities, colleges [98] [a story on bullying and academic freedom, the year before Daily News reported that Gays look to exhibit at next year’s trade fair [99] and later that year the Daily News again reported that Gays unveil scholarships [100]. All in all the private media gave a voice and standing to LGBTI people than state media.

RARE POSITIVITY 

Apart from serious HIV/AIDS stories one rare article in the chronicle stood out to be informative, however its wording reveals the challenges of reporting LGBTI issues in state media. The writer one TsungaiChekerwa- Machokoto after making it clear that she is not gay and she is a daughter of a pastor wrote an informative piece in which she said her boss exclaimed “Oh please! That’s disgusting, find another topic” when she said she wanted to write about gays. Her piece was titled Homosexuality: Let’s talk about it [50], she wrote that “The reality is that homosexuals do not come from out of space. They come from within the society… They come from respectable families who are also struggling to even think that one of their own is gay. These families suffer the same stigmatisation that they suffer and even more because it is neither their choice nor their preference. The situation is really sad and complicated.” She provided rarely mentioned context that “additions to Zimbabwe’s Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act of 2006 which criminalizes several sexual acts and often used to target LGBTI people was quietly passed in Parliament without public scrutiny” She emphasized on the existence of “universal human rights that are ours by virtue of being human.” And she ended by reemphasizing that she is Christian and her father was a pastor and she was not advocating for homosexuality but just being real with ourselves about the reality of the existence of homosexuality within us. This lone article connects to the general themes which developed whilst coding state media reports in a sense that editors and management do not like the coverage of LGTI issues unless if it is political massaging or when the extreme happens, it also shows the stigmatization when one wants to cover LGBTI issues and finally it shows that the media landscape can create platforms for descent by journalists and editors even within strict media houses such as state media.

Conclusions

1. The media politicize queer issues, the reporting is generally centredon political issues and it failed to capture the real life experiences of LGBTI people. From Mugabe’s rhetoric to political statements by politicians and perceived scandals the reporting cemented the idea that queer issues are nothing but political issues. The continued view of queer people as political animals subject to political spin reduces the capacity of equality efforts to be widely accessible and accepted by the general community. With no broad social imprint the activists and queer organisations efforts will reach a hard end when the public is called on for an equality referendum on situational opportunities such as the constitution making process, without the public’s buy in people will obviously object to which they have no information about. Referendums for equality in Ireland and Australia are such examples where people collectively decide the fate of the queer community and that has to be prepared for in Zimbabwean context. 

2. Online media and state run tabloids sensationalise LGBTI issues. This sensationalization and scandalization of queer relationships and lives are naturally problematic as Mudavanhu (2010) noted early on that in general the media seem to focus on problematic homosexual relationships and practices giving the impression that all homosexual relationships are a deliberate pervasion and failures. News articles analysed failed to appreciate that LGBTI relationships are relationships of consenting adults who are committed to each other as faithfully and with as much integrity as any heterosexual ones. Mudavanhu (2010) concluded that it is this context that contributes in shaping the people’s understanding of the phenomenon hence the loud cry that it is a deliberate pervasion and a sin. 

3. Journalists lack good reporting skills. In General this analysis confirms Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (GALA) and Community Media for Development (CMFD)’s research results which found that African media presents an unfair reflection of the LGBTI community, highlighting sexuality in stories where it is not relevant and creating a sense of “otherness.” It also understood that this unfair reporting is mainly because of poor reporting capacities and standards. In sync with the 2015 Gender and Media Progress Study (GMPS) which noted that a majority of stories produced by SADC journalists relied on just one source resulting in authority figures – mostly men – speaking on a majority of issues, this analysis found that most news articles rely on one source and unusually authoritative male church leaders, traditional leaders or politicians making their reporting grossly biased. 

4. The analysis noted that representations of LGBTI people were being distilled to the sex act that accompanies their orientation. Scandals in tabloids and online news platforms and enflamed stories in print media focuses on the sexual act creating a more sexualised reporting of queer issues. GLAAD’s terminology guide which would be recommended for journalists and activists to refer to said that “Talking about a person’s ‘homosexuality’ can, in some cases, reduce the life of that person to purely sexual terms” hence the continued use of sexualised terms create hyper sexualised beings in the public discourse leading to the unacceptability of queer people in society. 

5. There is a notable variation from other parts of Africa especially Uganda covered by Namusoga (2016). Zimbabwean private and online media covers LGBTI issues beyond the general news, a significant number of features and in depth interviews with LGBTI people were analysed and proved to be detailed unlike what Namusoga (2016) observed in Uganda where the majority of stories were hard news stories, with marginal use of more detailed formats such as features and interviews. 

6. There is no singular framing of queer issues in Zimbabwe, private media invoked the human rights/equality frame in most of their reporting and state media used the cultural, traditional, religious and moral frames often whilst tabloids use the moral frame as a yardstick of queer lives. As (Sacco 1995, 149) noted the news media are integral to the framing process because they are able to legitimize “some perspectives and marginalize others”. Frames of reporting have a direct effect in cultivating perceptions and also general framing of queer lives in the public discourse. This creation of perceptions using state media seem to have helped The Zimbabwean government to invariably maintain a strong position against the equality of LGBTI people as observed by Mudavanhu (2010). 

Recommendations

1. Understanding the lack of standing in media reporting, this analysis recommends activists and queer organizations to stimulate participation in the media be it through columns and commentary or hyper visibility. The definition of standing by Ferree, Gamson, Gerhards & Rucht(2002) noted that standing means gaining the status of a regular media source whose interpretations are directly quoted and it is not identical to being mentioned in the news as what have been happening to Rick Nathanson where she was reported about with any quotation from her. By getting prepared to take opportunities to insert voices the LGBTI community has be capacitated to provide its own interpretation and meaning to events or surrounding developments hence this analysis recommends wide reading and social awareness for all activists who may have more opportunities to have their voices out in the media. 

2. The other point worth noting is that although queer people received increasing media attention over the years, it is viewed through a heterosexual lens, therefore maintaining the dominant idea that homosexuality was abnormal while heterosexuality was the accepted norm Liebler, et al . (2009) Jowett and Peel (2010).  And in Uganda Namusoga (2016) noted that the news about LGBTI people was not ignored but were just negatively covered. However this analysis noted that not all the coverage was negative in Zimbabwe in the ten years from 2010 to 2020. This reveals avenues for activism which everyone should be ready to utilize. As such this analysis recommends rewarding good reporting by highlighting it and punishing bad reporting by condemning it in strongest terms. The relative lack of frequency of LGBTI stories afford the community time to organize online and offline campaigns against one particular article and generating more needed visibility in the process. 

3. It is evident that despite legal protections South African media continue to portray queer people in terms of “scandals, negative images and stereotypes” Ndlovu (2006) cited in Mongie, 2013. That shows that legal protections do not guarantee fair coverage in the media hence it should be equally a goal to push the media to fairness whilst pushing for legal protections. This analysis recommends focus on having fair media coverage using the same resource and intellectual energy as advocating for policy change. Hall et al . (1978:53) said “News is the end product of a complex process which begins with a systematic sorting and selecting of events and topics and that gave activists many opportunities to shape the outcome product which is the news. From sources, journalists, editors, financers, advertisers to the board of a media houses these are areas of advocacy which can potentially influence the end product. As for advertisers in Sibanda 2021 (Upcoming) I argued that targeting corporate sponsors of news media as one such a way to compel media houses to fairly cover LGBTI issues for example in Zimbabwe media houses depends on corporate advertisement which is mainly from reputable companies which may be affected by a narrative of them supporting homophobia.

4. The lack of queer voices on their issues and other issues may be because of the societal silence on sexuality issues. Journalists maybe finding it difficult to find queer voices to interview for different topics. Apart from random self-presentation queer organizations and individuals may create public databases for queer experts and informed activists who can authoritatively speak on one or many topics. These databases have been used by women in some instances including in Africa. The latest Quote This Woman+, the prominent SheSource and the American WomenAlsoKnowStuff databases have been shared with journalists to increase the voice and standing of women in the media. SheSource is a multi-field database with more than 1300 women experts available to journalists for free. Women Also Know Stuff in the US maintained an expanding database of women experts in political science and sub-fields. Quote This Woman+ at the early stages of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa, circulated the contact details of eight COVID-19 women experts which rapidly grew to 90, and had been used over 900 times by journalists and content producers worldwide in the first ten months of the pandemic.

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[ Development Practitioner • IR Postgraduate Student • African • Queer • Anti-Poverty ]

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