Beatific Ngumbwanda a journalist with TellZim weekly newspaper was on 8 April 2020 arrested by the police in Chiredzi who accused him of violating the lockdown regulations as stipulated in terms of Statutory Instrument (SI) 82 of 2020.
Ngumbwanda was detained for almost two hours before the police subsequently decided to release him.
MISA Zimbabwe understands that he was arrested while conducting his lawful professional duties despite his explanations to the police that he was a journalist. He even produced his accreditation card but the police were nonetheless adamant that he was committing an offence.
MISA Zimbabwe position
MISA Zimbabwe condemns the continued harassment and arrests of journalists conducting their lawful professional duties following the 21-day COVID-19 lockdown. The journalists were either arrested for using the 2019-accreditation cards or for allegedly violating the lockdown regulations.
This is despite the fact that the media is among the sectors categorised as an essential service allowed to operate during the lockdown. In addition, the Zimbabwe Media Commission is on record saying that journalists should be allowed to operate using their 2019-accreditation cards until the Commission issues the new 2020 cards.
The media plays a critical communication and information dissemination role that facilitates the exercise and enjoyment of citizens’ right to access to information particularly at this critical moment when the country has put in place measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
MISA Zimbabwe urges the police to co-operate with the media by recognising the important role of journalists as providers of an essential service and in line with the directive by the Zimbabwe Media Commission and the Ministry of Information to the effect that 2019 accreditation cards are still valid until the new ones for 2020 are duly issued by the Commission.
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