Zimbabwe media organisations have finally come together and speak with one voice to condemn the ongoing harassment on members of the media by suspected security forces.
In a 10 point petition document to be presented to the President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, Minister of Information Monica Mutsvangwa, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Ziyambi Ziyambi, Minister of Defence Oppah Muchinguri, ZRP Commissioner General Godwin Matanga, SADC Chairperson Dr Joseph Magufuli, SADC executive Secretary Dr Laurence Tax, African Union chairperson His Excellency Cyril Ramaphosa, African Commission on Human and People’s Rights Special Rapporteur on Access to Information and Freedom of Expression, Commissioner Lawrence Mute, United Nations Zimbabwe Resident Coordinator, Maria do Valle Ribeiro and UNESCO Regional Office for the Southern Africa Director, Professor Hubert Gijzen, the media organisations urged the local law enforcement agencies not to interfere with the work of and operations of journalists as enshrined in Section 61 and 62 of the country’s Constitution.
The gesture comes against the backdrop of increased cases of arrests, violations and harassment of journalists while carrying out their constitutionally protected duty.
In solidarity with all journalists that are currently incarcerated and those that are facing a myriad of charges for practising their profession and bringing to light malpractices, including corruption within the Zimbabwean society, the organisations in one of their petitions demanded the immediate dropping of all charges against journalists and media organisations.
They also added that the Zimbabwe security agencies must respect the journalism profession and that they desist from using violence against journalists in enforcing the national lockdown regulations.
Here are the 10 petitions:
i) That the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and the security forces in general should not inhibit the practice of journalism
ii) The dropping of all charges against journalists and media organisations such that there is enabling environment for media freedom and the exercise of freedom of expression in the country
iii) That the Zimbabwe security agencies respect the journalism profession and that they desist from using violence against journalists in enforcing the national lockdown regulations
iv) The Zimbabwe Republic Police doesn’t unnecessarily interfere in the work of journalists and media practitioners
v) That the Zimbabwean government reviews draconian provisions with the Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill and the regulations enforcing the national lockdown to strike a balance between protecting constitutionally guaranteed freedoms and the need to contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus
vi) The Zimbabwe Head of State and government categorically reins in to government officials that disrespect media freedom and that he takes action against those that threaten journalists and media practitioners
vii) The regional community, including SADC and the AU uses the existing mechanisms for peer review and accountability to ensure that Zimbabwe abides by international law and regional instruments that guarantee freedom of expression
viii) That all perpetrators of violence and harassment against journalists are brought to account for their heinous crimes
ix) An end to the culture of crimes against journalists with impunity and the respect for the country’s constitution
x) An inquiry into the state of the media sector in the country with a view to address the sustainability challenges that the country’s media is facing
The organisations represented are the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ), Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ), Zimbabwe National Editors Forum (ZINEF), Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA ZIMBABWE), Media Monitors, Gender and Media Connect (GMC), Africa Community Publishing Development (ACPD), Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ), Media Centre, Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (ZACRAS) and Zimbabwe Online Content Creators.