Media reacts angrily to Mugabe threats on scribes

via Media reacts angrily to Mugabe threats on scribes – NewsDay Zimbabwe September 17, 2015

Media groups have reacted angrily to threats by President Robert Mugabe that his administration will come hard on journalists whom he accused of writing lies about him and Zanu PF.

by Staff Reporter

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)-Zimbabwe chapter said the utterances by Mugabe were a threat to the new Constitution.

During a luncheon to mark the official opening of the Third Session of the Eighth Parliament on Tuesday, Mugabe said: “You are thinking how you can excite people who read so that they can buy your paper. No! The journalism we are experiencing is not the journalism we expect. If we begin to take control now, rigid control, people should not cry foul . . .”

He made the remarks while expressing his displeasure at the media’s coverage and interpretation of indications of the planned launch of a new political party by former Vice-President Joice Mujuru.

The media groups said the threat underlined the dangers that continue to confront the media despite the adoption of a new Constitution guaranteeing media freedom.

“Clearly, it demonstrates that although there has been fewer cases of harassment of journalists in the recent past, compared to previous years, government can easily resort to media repression at the slightest of opportunity using an array of undemocratic legislative instruments that remain at its disposal,” the advocacy group said on Wednesday.

“MISA-Zimbabwe, therefore, calls on the country’s leadership to exercise restraint and desist from issuing such threats, which are not only in conflict with the letter and spirit of the Constitution, but inherently border on incitement to media freedom violations.”

Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) executive director Loughty Dube said although there was nothing wrong with Mugabe, like any other citizen, urging the media to be professional, he missed the point when he resorted to issuing threats.

“The statement by the President can be viewed in two ways. First, it is good to urge journalists to be professional just like we all have been calling for. But I have a problem with the last part of using other means and saying don’t cry foul. There are other means than issuing threats, especially coming from the highest office,” he said.

The media lobby group said if Mugabe or any other person felt the media had acted unprofessional, there were available civil remedies like seeking redress through VMCZ.