Arrests of editors, journo unhelpful

via Arrests of editors, journo unhelpful – NewsDay Zimbabwe November 3, 2015

HARARE – THE Zimbabwe National Editors Forum (Zinef) condemns in the strongest terms the arbitrary arrest of Sunday Mail editor Mabasa Sasa, investigating editor Brian Chitemba and reporter Tinashe Farawo following the publication of a story in the latest edition of the weekly which fingered top police in the killing of elephants at Hwange National Park.

Njabulo Ncube Zinef, Acting Chairperson

As the representative of all editors in the country, we condemn the practice of arresting journalists for exercise their legitimate jobs. This is a serious violation of section 61 and 62 of the Constitution which guarantees press freedom which also guarantees protection of sources.

We urge the police to investigate and not to arrest in order to investigate. It is unhelpful and smacks of repression to arrest editors and journalists on issues that are not criminal but is part of their legitimate work, in this particular case, to expose the rot in our society. The police must not cover up for its failures to protect Zimbabwe’s wildlife by threatening the media.

There are better and more civilised ways of dealing with such cases than arresting and detaining journalists, for instance, the police could have lodging a complaint with the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe, or sought to engage the editor and his staff for the right of reply ostensibly to set the record straight.

But be that as it may, the arrests appear to be a continuation of a worrying trend where journalists are arrested and ill- treated by police for carrying out their duties. Police on Friday 23 October 2015 detained and interrogated three journalists in Rusape in Manicaland province.

The police detained senior freelance journalist Sydney Saize, Bernard Chiketo of The Daily News and Kenneth Nyangani, a correspondent for Newsday, for more than one hour after they apprehended them while covering a demonstration staged by some MDC-T party supporters outside Rusape Magistrates Court.

What is worrying with the latest arrests of the Sunday Mail journalists on the day they are supposed to be off cooling their feet after a fruitful week is that the development comes hard on the heels of a recent upsurge of increasingly hostile rhetoric against the media by authorities over perceived unwelcome and inconvenient coverage.

Zinef calls for the immediate and unconditional release of the journalists, taking them to court is a waste of state resources and attempting to legitimize a charade.