Harare – Media organisations in Zimbabwe have petitioned President Robert Mugabe over the continued police brutality against journalists.
Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ), a body representing media organisations in the country, on Friday told journalists at a press conference in the capital that the conduct by the police was “illegal” and “unconstitutional”.
“Your Excellency, we are writing this letter to implore you to intervene and stop the harassment of journalists. As a constitutional democracy, we believe those who violate the Constitution, such as the riotous police should be brought to book,” the media umbrella body said in a petition copied to police commissioner-general Augustine Chihuri, Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission chairperson Elasto Mugwadi, Information, Media and Broadcasting Services minister Christopher Mushohwe, as well as Information Secretary George Charamba.
“In all these instances, the victimised journalists are accredited with your government-appointed agency, the Zimbabwe Media Commission. We are aware of your position regarding the safety of professional journalists as enshrined in the Constitution, hence our appeal for your intervention,” MAZ said.
The media bodies said in all the cases, no journalists were charged.
“Between June and August 2016 alone, we have already recorded several incidences of wanton police aggression and brutality against journalists, which include the following: On June 25, journalists Garikai Chaunza, Christopher Mahove, Khumbulani Zamuchiya, James Jemwa and Edgar Gweshe were detained by the ZRP [Zimbabwe Republic Police] while covering a news event at the Rainbow Towers in Harare. Prior to this event, police assaulted Albert Masaka and detained Paidamoyo Muzulu while on assignment in Harare,” MAZ said.
“A few days later on July 5, journalists Tafadzwa Ufumeli, Richard Chidza, Godwin Mangudya and Elias Mambo were arrested in Mufakose by the ZRP during the course of their journalistic work.
“Barely a month later, on August 3, journalists Lawrence Chimunhu, Idah Mhetu, Haru Mutasa, Tendai Musiyazviripo and Christopher Mahove were assaulted while covering a news event in Harare.”
The media body said it was worrisome that in some instances, the police either damaged or confiscated various tools of trade belonging to journalists, “some of which are yet to be recovered”.
On Thursday, the Zimbabwe People First (ZimPF), an opposition party led by former Vice-President Joice Mujuru, condemned the attacks on demonstrators and journalists beaten up during the anti-bond notes demonstrations, and said such attacks accentuated the call for Mugabe and his administration to step down.
“Surely a government which wages war against journalists (the Fourth Estate) is a government fighting against itself. It is a government that is fighting against the people it is supposed to represent. The sight of a journalist, with a camera in hand being ravaged by police batons, sums up, in a very graphic way, the barbaric disposition of the current regime. The situation is made even worse by the silence on the part of home affairs minister Ignatius Chombo, on the sad turn of events yesterday,” ZimPF said.
“Such unruly behaviour by the few police officers involved in these savage attacks on journalists is supposed to be condemned by the highest office in the command chain in the police force. Under normal circumstances, if such gross abuse of power happens under the purview of a self-respecting minister, the honourable thing for the minister would be to resign.”
“We have never witnessed such barbaric attacks when Zanu-PF supporters, who are notorious for their unruly behaviour, demonstrated. This makes us believe these savage attacks are planned, at the behest of Mugabe, by some elements within the police force that are fighting against the people whose public security they are supposed to ensure. We wonder whether the attack on journalists is just a coincidence, especially when we take into account that Mugabe took a swipe at the scribes during his party’s so-called war veterans’ solidarity rally with the Head of State at the Zanu-PF headquarters on Wednesday July 27, 2016.”
The opposition party said journalists would never turn violent or influence violence in any demonstration, “and for this reason, we wonder why the police would target them through these savage attacks”.
African News Agency