Soldiers have assaulted journalists Munashe Chokodza and Leopold Munhende this evening, 24 June 2020, who were returning home from work. The duo was assaulted with military whips at the Warren Park shopping centre in Harare. The journalists work for online news sites 263Chat and NewZimbabwe.com respectively.
When the journalists dropped off at the shopping centre, the army was apparently dispersing people from the shopping centre. They stopped the two and questioned them as to why they were not observing the lockdown regulations. Both Munhende and Chokodza produced their press cards and explained that they were coming from work, as they are part of the essential service workers.
The soldiers apparently remarked, “You journalists think you are special in this country”, before ordering them to roll on the ground and assaulted the duo. They both sustained injuries in the process.
MISA Zimbabwe Lawyer Chris Mhike is assisting the journalists in reporting the case with the police for them to access medical care.
MISA Zimbabwe position
MISA Zimbabwe condemns these acts of barbarism by our men and women in uniform. Journalists cannot continue to be punching bags for daring to perform their professional duties, which are defined in the constitution with such impunity. These acts of barbarism are unacceptable in a country that claims to be a democracy, worse off 40 years after independence.
The assault of these journalists shows a clear disregard of media freedom by members of the security forces. It is a violation of Section 61 of the Constitution, the High Court ruling on the 20th of April 2020, which recognized the role of the media during the lockdown and the government’s statutory instrument classifying the media as an essential service in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Section 44 of the Constitution is very clear that the State and every person including state agencies at every level must respect, protect, promote and fulfil the declaration of rights.
MISA Zimbabwe seeks to emphasize that media freedom is essential to the creation of an open and democratic society and should not be interfered with. Journalists are contributing meaningfully to the general public’s access to information and as such their role should be recognized and respected.
MISA Zimbabwe, therefore, re-emphasizes to all the security forces and the general public that journalism is not a crime!