n Communicare : Journal for Communication Sciences in Southern Africa - Between citizen and vigilante journalism : 's Fair Deal Campaign and the Zimbabwe crisis

Special Edition 1
  • ISSN : 0259-0069



New forms of online citizen journalism have refreshed political communication in Africa. New information technologies are providing readers with previously unavailable opportunities to comment and produce their own news and information that is able to influence political processes. However, all is not rosy about Africa's new citizen journalism. While it has produced reliable and quality information that African democracies require, it has also produced vigilante journalism - a vindictive and revengeful form of gathering and disseminating news and information. Vigilante journalism is similar to the necklacing that was common in South African in the 1980s. The article discusses how, at the height of the Zimbabwe crisis (2007-2008), the news website, , led a vigilante campaign to publicly name and have perceived relatives and children of Zimbabwean ruling party officials deported from 'Western' countries. The idea was to help resolve the political and economic crises in Zimbabwe. The editors refused to question the ethics and morality of the exercise. Thus, encouraged by the website's editors, Zimbabwean users of the website took the law in their own hands and published addresses, telephone numbers and other personal information about anyone thought to be related to those in government in Zimbabwe. This blurred the boundaries between citizen and vigilante journalism. The resultant vigilante journalism by groups seeking instant justice was in a way similar to the necklacing, even though this was in a virtual sense. It is clear that the emerging new media spaces in Africa function like double-edged swords able to either build or destroy democracy.

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