By Hama Saburi
Today, (29 September) riot police indiscriminately fired rubber bullets at protesters in Harare’s central business district, critically injuring Daily News reporters – Mugove Tafirenyika and Brighton Goko –who were on assignment covering the demonstrations.
It is by the grace of God that the worst didn’t happen. With the help of good Samaritans, management at the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe was able to rush the two to a local private hospital where they are currently admitted in the intensive care unit.
The brutal conduct by the riot police should have no place in a civilised society such as ours. It is deplorable, shameful, disgraceful, and totally uncalled for.
It is absurd in the extreme to criminalise the work of journalists in the 21st century and inflict the most grievous pain on members of the fourth estate when all they will be seeking is to do is go about their professional duties as society’s most trusted eyes and ears.
We believe journalists deserve better, especially from the police.
If anything, police should be assisting media practitioners as they go about their duties in the wider context of creating a safe Zimbabwe in which all citizens feel safe and protected to exercise their rights without having to look over their shoulders in case ‘big brother’ is watching them.
Is this too much to ask for?
Our police must be ashamed of themselves for what happened today. The police’s leadership must take full responsibility for this.
It is sad that police continue to act with impunity, as this is not the first time that journalists have been brutally attacked by law enforcement agents without having been provoked.
In fact, it is becoming the norm for journalists to be on the receiving end of overzealous police officers each time there is a demonstration. One shudders to think what else could be in store for media practitioners now that we are about to enter the silly season of election contests.
As we wish Mugove and Brighton a speedy recovery, may we also remind our police that they have a duty to uphold the national charter: Sections 61 and 62 of the Constitution safeguards press freedom, hence the police must lead by example by upholding the law. This, we have raised with the police several times but it’s like talking to the deaf as the situation is not getting any better.
Unless the intention is to outdo banana republics such as Burma and North Korea, our police must desist from fascist tendencies that have the effect of aggravating an already bad socio-economic situation imploding in Zimbabwe right before our own eyes.
Hama Saburi is the Editor-in-Chief of ANZ, the publishers of the Daily News, Daily News on Sunday and Weekend Post.