Freelance journalist James Jemwa was forced by two soldiers to delete his footage today around 1700hrs by in Harare’s suburb of Mufakose. Jemwa was interviewing some individuals in Mufakose at Gwenyambira shopping center for his upcoming documentary film when he was approached by police officers who inquired on what he was doing. Jemwa showed them his press card and they left him to continue with his professional duties.

However, a few minutes later a vehicle with over 15 soldiers also arrived at the shopping centre and two soldiers approached him. These soldiers expressed they disregard to the fact that Jemwa is a journalist who was carrying out his professional duties. We are reliably informed that these two soldiers forced him to delete the footage. The also threatened to beat him up if he continued filming.

MISA Zimbabwe position

The rate at which journalists have been harassed, threatened, arrested and assaulted during this lockdown period has reached alarming levels. The members of the security forces are showing clear disregard of media freedom and subsequently the Constitution of Zimbabwe. Section 44 of the Constitution provides for the state and every person including state agencies at every level to respect, protect, promote and fulfill the declaration of rights.

MISA Zimbabwe is concerned with the manner with which security personnel are treating journalists, particularly during this lockdown period. The several cases involving the harassment, arrest and assault of journalists that have been recorded are uncalled for and unjustified.

These actions directly contradict the statement by the Zimbabwe Republic Police on its Twitter account on 30 March 2020 in which the police pledged its commitment to promote cordial relations with media practitioners.

MISA Zimbabwe calls on the Zimbabwe Media Commission to conduct investigations and inquiries into these media freedom violations which also impact on the citizens’ right to access to information. As highlighted in our recent statement, MISA Zimbabwe reiterates that the enemy we are fighting at this critical time is Covid-19 and not the media. The media should thus be allowed to conduct its professional duties without hindrance as provided for in the Constitution.

MISA Zimbabwe therefore re-emphasizes to all the security forces and the general public that journalism is not a crime! To the contrary, it can save lives during this struggle against the deadly Coronavirus!

Source: MISA Zimbabwe