The International Federation of Journalists, the world's largest organisation of journalists, today condemned the government in Zimbabwe for refusing to guarantee the safety of journalists and for undue restrictions on foreign reporters.
A meeting between Minister of Information and Publicity Jonathan Moyo and an IFJ fact-finding delegation led by IFJ Executive Member, Farhana Ismail and Basildon Peta, President of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ), ended in a shambles today, with the Minister of Information refusing to discuss any of the concerns raised by the delegation.
The government failed to show concern or any action on the issues raised by the delegation. When pressed for safety guarantees for journalists, foreign and national alike, the Minister walked out of the meeting, saying aloud, "I have better things to do with my time".
The IFJ asked the Minister for clarification on:
Why no arrests have been made or follow-up investigations initiated in connection with the two bombings of the Daily News newspaper;
Why the more than 14 cases of assaults, harassment and intimidation against media professionals, reported by the ZUJ to the police, had not been investigated;
Questioned the validity of the deportation of two foreign journalists, Mercedes Sayagues from South Africa's Weekly Mail and Guardian and Joseph Winter of the BBC;
Why there was no consultation with ZUJ and other interested bodies on the government's fast tracking of the repeal of the foreign and local journalists' accreditation system which was introduced after the expulsion of the two foreign journalists;
What efforts were put in place by the government to guarantee freedom of expression, freedom of the media and the creation of a climate for divergent views;
Why the ZUJ was restricted from staging a peaceful demonstration against press violations.
Minister Moyo's response to the issues raised was: "We will never ever tolerate anyone who is contemptuous of our country, it's laws and our views."
Pressed on the reasoning for the attacks on the independent media and the government's silence and non-action to urge the public, in particular the marauding war veterans to stop and desist with their actions, he said, "partisanship is what caused people to react".
The mission also met with Andy Meldrum, representing foreign journalists in Zimbabwe who expressed fear that the onslaught on the foreign media was the tip of the iceberg.
Foreign journalists while facing the wrath of war veterans, have, until recently, not had any direct threat to their presence in Zimbabwe but the expulsion of Winter and Sayagues created an atmosphere of uncertainty and insecurity.
All foreign media were informed by Moyo's Ministry that their accreditations would be cancelled and they would have to re-apply. Details of the new accreditation proposals are not open for discussion.
For over a year, aggression on the media has increased, prompting the IFJ's affiliate, the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists, to seek urgent international assistance so that journalists and photographers can operate in a free environment conducive for democracy.
It is clear that the escalation of violence and intimidation against the media is continuing. The IFJ calls on its member organisations, human rights groups, international institutions, and civil society to protest against the human rights violations and the threat to the media in Zimbabwe.