Government pressured to act on impunity against journalists

By Tafadzwa Muranganwa

The government of Zimbabwe has been urged to make relentless efforts to act on impunity against journalists following an upsurge of violations against media personnel.

The call was made at a conference held on Friday to mark the ‘International Day To End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists’ organised by UNESCO which was attended by various media stakeholders .

Speaking at the event, revered journalist turned lawyer Chris Mhike raised concern over the increasing violations against journalists despite the rhetoric by the government on reforms.

“Over the two years that the new dispensation has been ushered in there has been an increasing number of violations against journalists.

“It’s now time government should move away from just condemnation and promises when addressing this issue but to act,”

said Mhike who has defended a number of journalists who had their rights violated.

While the government through a speech by the minister of media, information and broadcasting services read by Dr Ivanhoe Gurira, director of international communication services , is adamant that it is making inroads in media reforms by crafting new media,Mhike says, on the contrary the bills do not go far in addressing media freedoms and rights.

According to Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ) chairperson Tabani Moyo, there has never been recourse on violations perpetrated against journalists this year.

“Of the 19 cases of violations against journalists,8 of them were police induced and none of the cases has been investigated, ”highlighted Moyo.

This was confirmed in the case of Fani Mapfumo , a journalist with ZimMorningPost who was beaten up by police in August when police were clashing with MDC Alliance supporters after their demonstration had been banned and up to now no investigation has been done.

UNESCO regional director for Southern Africa, Professor Hubert Gijzen implored the government to act on impunity so that the media can effectively play its role.

“Impunity violates society by covering corruption and human rights abuses which the media need to expose hence the need for member states including Zimbabwe to advance cooperation on violence against journalists, ”urged Professor Gijzen.

But the UNESCO regional director for Southern Africa said the other way to deal with impunity is by striving for excellence in journalism in the face of a surge in misinformation which has in a  way spur anger against media.

This was reinforced by Paul Kimumwe of the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) , Uganda, who said the safety of journalists must start at their workplace for them to be able to report effectively.

“When we talk of safety let’s not forget that the journalists need a safe working environment from their employers. In Africa we have realised that very few journalists have contracts with their employers so how do you expect them to deliver quality work,” argued Paul Kimumwe.

 The 2nd November of each has been set aside as day to commemorate the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, in a statement ,Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO says, “through the campaign #KeepTruthAlive, it challenges the perception that murders only happen far from the public eye, primarily targeting foreign war correspondents and it shines the spotlight on local journalists working on corruption and politics in non-conflict situations, who represented 93% of journalist deaths in the past decade