The Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa)-Zimbabwe has urged the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) to show restraint when dealing with journalists during the 30 days national lockdown implemented by the government to control the spread of Covid-19.
The plea comes after journalists were subjected to assaults, arrests and detentions when the country went into a first lockdown in March last year.
In a letter addressed to Police Commissioner General Godwin Matanga, Misa Zimbabwe national chairperson Golden Maunganidze lobbied for the “safety and security of journalists during the Covid-19 lockdown.”
“…MISA Zimbabwe is humbly reaching out and appealing to your esteemed offices to ensure the safety and security of journalists, who in terms of the regulations are providers of essential services.
“Our appeal and concern on the safety and security of journalists is informed by the media freedom violations that ensued when the country implemented the first national lockdown measures in March 2020,” he said.
“In light of the current national lockdown, MISA Zimbabwe is therefore appealing to your esteemed office, to ensure that journalists as providers of essential services conduct their professional responsibilities of disseminating and facilitating access to information on the pandemic and government’s measures and efforts to contain the virus, without any hindrance.
“It is our very well-considered view that the obtaining situation requires urgent professional co-operation and constant communication between the police, the Zimbabwe Media Commission and the media players.
“This is critical given that the 2021 accreditation fees are still to be gazetted while the accreditation cards for this year have not yet been issued.
“The ZMC should therefore consider decentralizing its accreditation processes for the convenience of journalists in line with the new lockdown measures.”
MISA appealed with Matanga to use his office to relay to “all police stations in the country for purposes of ensuring that journalists will not be arrested or harassed for using the accreditation cards issued last year”.
“MISA Zimbabwe, therefore, urges critical stakeholders to co-operate in protecting and promoting media freedom to ensure timely, accurate and verifiable information on COVID-19 and the measures that can be taken to prevent contamination and spreading of the virus.
“In turn, the media should be professional in conducting its lawful duties and ethical responsibilities in line with the profession’s codes and ethics while also being mindful of the profession’s safety and security measures,” Maunganidze said.