IFJ Urges Zimbabwe to Stop “Choking” Independent Journalism

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today urged the government of Zimbabwe to put and end to the ongoing crackdown on the media in the wake of increasing attacks on media professionals and the enactment of a draconian communication bill that could lead to monitoring of journalists’ communications.

The attacks have been on both local and foreign media.

On September 3 Shinji Ito a journalist with the South Africa office of Japanese Kyodo News Agency was arrested, detained, and interrogated for three hours by Zimbabwean police after he was seen taking photographs in the capital city Harare. Ito was shooting people queuing to buy basic commodities, which are in short supply. When he was released, police officers warned him not to take such pictures again. Ito was accredited by the government appointed Media and Information Commission and had a temporary Press Card.

“We are very concerned about this latest wave of attacks in total impunity on journalists in Zimbabwe,” said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa office.

On August 3 Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe signed into law the Interception of Communications Act which allows the government to “monitor and intercept certain communications in the course of their transmission through a telecommunications, postal or any other related service system.”

“This law is a very serious and unacceptable violation of freedom of expression. With all these unpunished attacks and this draconian law the Zimbabwean authorities are choking independent journalism in the country,” said Gabriel Baglo.

The Zimbabwean Union of Journalists (ZUJ) believes journalists are among the first targeted by the Interception of Communications Act.

“A lot of journalists whose media organizations were shut down are now stringing for web based or foreign radio stations as they know no other job. They naturally use the internet or the telephone for working,” said Foster Dongozi, Secretary General of ZUJ and a member of the IFJ Executive Board.

On August 23 Godfrey Mutimba, a journalist with the only remaining independent newspaper, The Standard, was detained for four hours by supporters of the ruling party Zanu PF for covering the memorial service of a senior opposition official who died recently. According to local sources, police officers who were in the area did nothing to help Mutimba. The journalist was only released following the intervention of senior Zanu PF officials.

On August 1 Tsvangirai Mukwazhi, a freelance photojournalist was slapped and insulted by the wife of Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander, Jocelyn Chiwenga. The general’s wife was not happy that Mukwazhi was covering the opposition activity and accused him of being “a sell out.” The reporter was part of a crew of journalists who were covering opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s tour of supermarkets to assess the impact of the price blitz. A week later, the Media and Information Commission launched a procedure to cancel Mukwazhi’s accreditation for allegedly not disclosing all the media outlets he freelances for at the time submitted his application.

For more information contact the IFJ at + 221 842 01 43

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries worldwide