Eleven unions and advocacy groups representing Zimbabwean journalists have petitioned President Emmerson Mnangagwa, SADC, the African Union and the United Nations demanding an end to “increased cases of arrests, violations and harassment of journalists.”

The unions say since March 30 when Mnangagwa declared a coronavirus lockdown, over a dozen journalists have been arrested, beaten by security forces or forced to flee their homes.

Rights groups accuse Mnangagwa of using coronavirus emergency regulations to crackdown on rivals and critical voices, including journalists who have been reporting on government corruption.

Below is the petition sent out on Wednesday, August 12, 2020:

Zimbabwe President, His Excellency Emmerson Mnangagwa

Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Hon. Monica Mutsvangwa

Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Hon. Ziyambi Ziyambi

Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, Hon Kazembe Kazembe

Minister of Defence, Hon Oppah Muchinguri

The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) Commissioner General, Godwin Matanga

The Southern Africa Development Community Chairperson, His Excellency Dr. John Pombe Joseph Magufuli

The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Executive Secretary, Dr. Stergomena Lawrence Tax

The African Union Chairperson, His Excellency Cyril Ramaphosa  

The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) Special Rapporteur on Access to Information and Freedom of Expression, Commissioner Lawrence Mute

The United Nations Zimbabwe Resident Coordinator, Maria do Valle Ribeiro 

The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Regional Office for Southern Africa Director, Professor Hubert Gijzen

We the undersigned journalists, media practitioners, editors, online content creators, media associations, freedom of expression advocates, and broader Zimbabwean media stakeholders

Affirming our constitutionally guaranteed right to practise journalism, which include but not limited to rights to freedom of expression, access to information, protection of journalistic sources and media freedom as obtained in Sections 61 and 62 of the country’s Constitution

Cognisant that the practice of journalism and provision of news media services are recognised as essential services in terms of the regulations governing the national lockdown enforced to mitigate against the Covid-19 global pandemic as defined by SI 83 of 2020 section 2 (j)

Noting the High Court ruling ordering the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) not to interfere with the work and operations of journalists

Concerned at the increased cases of arrests, violations and harassment of journalists while carrying out their constitutionally-protected duty

Appalled by some provisions within the Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill and proposed regulations that adversely impact on journalistic and citizens’ rights to privacy, freedom of expression and media freedom

In solidarity with all journalists that are currently incarcerated and those that are facing a myriad of charges for practising their profession and bringing to light malpractices, including corruption within the Zimbabwean society

Recognising the sustainability challenges that the media is encountering as a result of the streamlined operations owing to the Covid-19 pandemic

Concerned at reports of political interference in the operations of journalists that has resulted in some media practitioners losing their jobs on political grounds

Being cognisant of past engagements and reports that have not deterred both police officers and army personnel from continuously violating journalistic and media freedoms

Concerned that the welfare, safety and security of journalists and their families is under threat through criminalisation of journalism as a profession

Reiterating our clarion call that journalism is not crime,

Now hereby submit this petition demanding:

That the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and the security forces in general should not inhibit the practice of journalism

The dropping of all charges against journalists and media organisations such that there is enabling environment for media freedom and the exercise of freedom of expression in the country

That the Zimbabwe security agencies respect the  journalism profession and that they desist from using violence against journalists in enforcing the national lockdown regulations

The Zimbabwe Republic Police doesn’t unnecessarily interfere in the work of journalists and media practitioners

That the Zimbabwean government reviews draconian provisions with the Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill and the regulations enforcing the national lockdown to strike a balance between protecting constitutionally guaranteed freedoms and the need to contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus

The Zimbabwe Head of State and government categorically reins in to government officials that disrespect media freedom and that he takes action against those that threaten journalists and media practitioners

The regional community, including SADC and the AU, uses the existing mechanisms for peer review and accountability to ensure that Zimbabwe abides by international law and regional instruments that guarantee freedom of expression

That all perpetrators of violence and harassment against journalists are brought to account for their heinous crimes

An end to the culture of crimes against journalists with impunity and the respect for the country’s constitution

An inquiry into the state of the media sector in the country with a view to address the sustainability challenges that the country’s media is facing

Thus submitted by:

The Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ)

Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ)

Zimbabwe National Editors Forum (ZINEF)

Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA ZIMBABWE)

Media Monitors

Gender and Media Connect (GMC)         

Africa Community Publishing Development (ACPD)

Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ)

Media Centre

Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (ZACRAS)

Zimbabwe Online Content Creators 

Leave a Reply