Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

SABC journalists held for filming ‘Freedom Square’

By Nomalanga Moyo

Two journalists were on Monday briefly arrested by Harare police for filming the site where the MDC-T party held its final rally just before the July 31st election.

Morgan Tsvangirai 'Freedom Square' rally
Morgan Tsvangirai ‘Freedom Square’ rally

Shingi Nyoka and Ephert Musekiwa – correspondents for the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) – were arrested as they filmed the open space just behind the Sheraton Hotel, which has been dubbed ‘Freedom Square’ by MDC-T loyalists.

Their lawyer, Tonderai Bhatasara, confirmed the arrests to the NewsDay newspaper. He said the two were released without charge three hours later, after it was clear that the police had no case against them.

“They were released after officers at Harare Central police station correctly observed that the area the SABC correspondents were filming was not a protected area.

“They are correspondents with the appropriate media accreditation and what happened to some extent is a form of harassment and an unwarranted inconvenience to people lawfully doing their work,” said Bhatasara.

According to Musekiwa, the police insist that they did not arrest the two – but just detained them.

On July 20th, Albert Ncube, a correspondent for the Bulawayo-based Southern Eye newspaper was also detained by intelligence operatives in Gwanda, accused of working for a ‘pirate’ radio station.

Ncube was interrogated for two hours, and later released on condition that he did not write “bad things” about the ZANU PF rally that was taking place in the town.

The latest arrests bring the total number of media personnel who have either been arrested or harassed since May to at least 18. Zimbabwean journalists operate under one of the world’s harshest media environments.

Takura Zhangara, director at media ethics group the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe, said it was unfortunate that the police were continuing to criminalise journalists.

Zhangazha said: “We hope the new government will make efforts to address this criminalisation of the media and journalists.

“Any journalist accredited in accordance with the law and all the relevant statutes should be allowed to do their work without hindrance. It is completely undemocratic for anyone to be detained for whatever amount of time for doing their work,” Zhangazha told SW Radio Africa Tuesday.

He added that it was wrong for state security agents to create an atmosphere of intimidation where scribes are afraid to cover certain issues.

“It is the duty of the media to inform. And if there are security forces on the streets, journalists should be able to take pictures, ask questions, and inform people about it, without being arrested,” Zhangazha added.

‘Freedom Square’ was the venue of MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s last rally, which was attended by massive crowds. Armed anti-riot police have been camped on the site since a day after the polls – presumably to pre-empt any mass protests against the election outcome, which many believe was rigged by ZANU PF. SW Radio Africa