Stop impunity and criminalizing journalists now


By Watmore Makokoba

Journalists are not criminals, governments have been warned to stop forthwith muzzling the media and called upon to expedite investigations to ensure perpetrators are brought to book.

As the world commemorates International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, civil society and the media fraternity have expressed concern on the rising impunity and injustices oftentimes perpetrated by government authorities on journalists while on duty.

Today, the media fraternity is perplexed with yet another significant blow as Zimbabwean authorities today,  Friday 03 November 2017 arrests an American citizen and confiscated her laptop claiming that she undermined the authority of or insulted President Robert Mugabe by retweeting a tweet.

Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officers arrested Martha O’Donovan, who works for Magamba TV, during dawn at her Harare residence and confiscated her electronic devices including her laptop and detained her at Harare Central Police Station’s CID Law and Order Section.

Zimbabwe is one of the countries who has been in the limelight for seemingly wrong reasons, cases of unlawful arrests and an unprecedented onslaught on the media, infringing the citizens from their fundamental right to freedom of expression.

Recently, Newsday senior reporter Richard Chidza was allegedly shoved and slapped by ruling Zanu-PF youths at a press conference on 19 October 2017, demanding that he reveals the source of a story regarding an alleged fall-out within the youth league’s leadership ranks.

On 29 September 2017 journalists Mugove Tafirenyika and Brighton Goko who work for the privately owned Daily News sustained serious injuries after being assaulted by the police while covering a demonstration in Harare’s central business district.

Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zimbabwe has dissuaded the Zimbabwean government to accord the profession of Journalism its rightful space to operate in and called for investigations cases involving the assault of journalists conducting their lawful professional duties.

“The investigations will assist in bringing the culprits to book and send a clear message to other would-be perpetrators that the government does not tolerate these wanton acts of impunity against journalists”, reads MISA statement.

In a joint statement, the European Union and the Africa Union has called on state authorities to fulfil their responsibility to protect journalists, establish a meaningful deterrence against the violent targeting of media professionals, and fully abide by their international and continental obligations.

“Nevertheless, journalist continue to be killed and face an increasing level of intimidation and violence. The disregard for the fundamental rights of journalists as they exercise their profession has led to a climate of impunity affecting not only victims but also freedom of expression and rule of law” reads the EU and AU statement.

In the same regard, the UN urges member states to do their utmost to prevent violence against journalists and media workers and bring perpetrators to justice as well as promoting a safe and enabling environment for journalists to work independently and without undue interference.

The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2 November as International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists in commemoration of the assassination of two French journalists in Mali on 2 November 2013.