By Tatenda Dewa | Harare Bureau |
The Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) has expressed serious concern over the continued harassment of journalists by security agents.
In a statement on Thursday, VMCZ, an independent body that promotes media self-regulation, singled out the police for violating journalists’ constitutional right to carry out their duties by arresting, assaulting and harassing scribes.
“The VMCZ is mindful of the prevailing unrest in the country and the role the security forces have to play in maintaining law and order in the country.
“However, the VMCZ reminds the police of the constitutional rights of journalists in carrying their duties to inform the public of developments in the country and therefore urges police and all members of society to allow journalists to freely execute their duties without hindrance,” said VMCZ.
The latest case was when police on Wednesday arrested Bulawayo-based freelance photojournalist, Crispen Ndlovu, who was covering a demonstration.
Police last week assaulted freelance journalist, Lucy Yasini, as she covered a violent protest in Harare.
Other journalists who have recently been assaulted or arrested by the police on the pretext that they were protesters include Albert Masaka, Obey Manayiti, Robert Tapfumaneyi and Paidamoyo Muzulu were also either assaulted or detained by the police while on assignment.
Another freelance journalist, James Jemwa, is still in police detention after he was arrested last week in Harare while covering a demonstration.
“The VMCZ emphasises that journalists have a constitutional right to a safe and secure working environment and strongly condemns any acts that hinder or interfere with their constitutional mandate to inform the public.
“These attacks, particularly on journalists who will be lawfully conducting their business, is a serious threat to the profession, safety and security of journalists and has implications on the media’s capacity to inform the citizenry,” said VMCZ.
The council urged the police to protect journalists, instead of criminalising them.
“VMCZ strongly believes in an ethical, accountable and professional media and these three important tenets cannot be achieved if media continue to operate under threat and constant fear from law enforcement agents,” added the council.
It called on the police to engage with media houses and organisations “to find a lasting solution on how members of the media covering volatile situations can be protected”.