Zimbabwean authorities and ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) should investigate the assaults and harassment of journalists covering events of public interest in the past week, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.
“The increasing cases of violence against journalists in Zimbabwe is becoming a serious source of concern and must be strongly condemned,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, in New York. “Press freedom violations and the rising impunity for crimes against journalists should not be tolerated as the country prepares for a general election in 2023.”
Between Thursday, October 6, and Monday, October 10, five journalists were assaulted, briefly detained, and prevented from covering events by police, ZANU-PF activists, and suspected government agents from the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO):
- On Thursday, October 6, in Mbare, a suburb south of the capital Harare, police assaulted NewsDay reporter Moreblessings Nyoni after he was found taking pictures of Harare City Council employees demolishing vending stalls and residential structures, the journalist and news reports said. According to the journalist, who communicated with CPJ via messaging app, police asked for his press card before assaulting him using batons, leaving him with a swollen arm and painful buttocks. “I showed them my press card, but they said, ‘It’s fake. You are a sellout,’” the journalist said.
- On Saturday, October 8, in Harare’s Kuwadzana neighborhood, ZANU-PF members and people believed to be members of the CIO assaulted Voice of America correspondent Godwin Mangudya and forced him to delete footage captured at the ruling party’s central committee elections, according to the journalist who spoke to CPJ via messaging app, news reports, and the Zimbabwean chapter of the regional press freedom group Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA). Mangudya was held for over an hour and his personal and work-related data was wiped from his devices before they were returned, the journalist and MISA statement said.
- On Sunday, October 9, around 1 p.m. in Masvingo, about 183 miles (294 kilometers) south of capital Harare, ZANU-PF security officers barred NewsDay journalist Desmond Chingarande from covering the central committee elections, which were held at Masvingo Teachers’ College, according to the journalist, a news report and MISA’s Zimbabwean chapter. Chingarande told CPJ via messaging app he was informed that NewsDay reporters were not being allowed in. Other journalists from state broadcaster Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation were granted access to the event, he added.
- On Monday, October 10, in Mbare, police assaulted Dunmore Mundai and Gadaffi Wells, journalists from Alpha Media Holdings’ HStv, according to the journalists who spoke to CPJ via messaging app, news reports, a MISA statement, and the International Federation of Journalists. The two were in the area filming a documentary when they captured an exchange between police and vendors from ruling ZANU-PF and opposition Citizens Coalition for Change over vendors’ market stands, the journalists and MISA statement said. Mundai and Wells were only released after identifying themselves as journalists despite having news cameras, the journalists said.
CPJ did not get any response from phone calls and repeated queries sent via messaging app to ZANU-PF information director Tafadzwa Mugwadi and police spokesperson Paul Nyathi.