BY MOSES MATENGA
ZIMBABWEAN police and government officials yesterday said journalism was not a crime and assured media practitioners that were free to carry out their duties freely without fear of arrest or harassment.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said this during the International Day to End Impunity on Crimes against Journalists commemorations organised by the Gender Media Connect in Harare.
“It is correct that journalism is not a crime and as Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), we truly recognise that. I want to assure you that as journalists do their job, we will certainly recognise and respect their role as the Fourth Estate,” Nyathi said.
“As I said earlier, the media also helps police to do their work. We have a fight against armed robbers in the country, and we want to applaud the media for their coverage.”
The International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists is a United Nations-recognised international day observed annually on November 2.
The day seeks to draw attention to the level of impunity for crimes against journalists.
Yesterday’s commemorations were graced by European Union head of political section, Lourdes Chamoro, who said impunity on crimes against journalists was unacceptable.
Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said: “Journalism protection is critical. Journalism can never be a crime. Ending impunity for crimes against journalists is a job that stakeholders should do together.”
She said government enjoyed cordial relations with the media, but human rights lawyers expressed concern over the arbitrary detention, arrest and harassment of journalists in the country.
In a statement, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) expressed concern that police and other stakeholders rarely investigated crimes against media practitioners.
“Violence against journalists has a chilling effect on society and the journalists themselves. The heinous crimes against journalists are seldom investigated by the authorities and many perpetrators of these crimes and attacks are rarely brought to justice,” ZLHR said
yesterday. Media Alliance of Zimbabwe deputy chairperson Loughty Dube added: “This cycle of violence is an indicator of the weakening rule of law. Our clarion call to stakeholders is let journalism thrive.”
Media Institute of Southern Africa acting regional director Tabani Moyo urged States to put mechanisms in place for the protection journalists.
“It is imperative that the government of Mozambique accounts for where Ibraimo Mbaruco is, and for governments in the region to put in safety mechanisms for journalists to do their work freely,” Moyo said.
In a speech read on her behalf, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation director-general Audrey Azoulay called on all member States to ensure an end to crimes against journalists.