By James Muonwa in Chinhoyi
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s security Friday barred 10 journalists, mostly from the independent media, from covering the commissioning of 40 Zupco buses presided over by the state leader at Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT) grounds.
The reporters from various media outlets were refused entry into the campus by hostile security who accused the scribes of coming late for the function.
“The president has already arrived and the function has started, therefore you cannot go in. So, gentlemen leave now…” an uncompromising security agent told the journalists.
Only journalists from State-controlled media, including ZBC, Herald and The Sunday Mail covered the event.
Efforts by the stranded scribes to argue out their matter at the CUT main gate, through Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) provincial secretary Paul Pindani, were met with resistance.
Hostile security then ordered the group to leave or face unspecified punitive action.
“I and a colleague were blatantly told off despite the fact that we had arrived around 9am for an event scheduled for 10am according to the invitations we got from the parent ministry,” said Nunurai Jena, a journalist with Voice of America’s Studio 7.
Zimbabwe National Editors Forum (Zinef) national coordinator, Njabulo Ncube deplored the incident, describing it as “an affront to the independence of the media, access to information and free expression.”
Said Ncube: “Journalists should be allowed to do their work without any undue influence or hindrance. Lately, we have noted a pattern pointing to the criminalisation of the journalism profession.
“We, as media activists in general and Zinef in particular, will escalate this unfortunate incident to higher offices, especially the Zimbabwe Media Commission which issues accreditation cards to journalists in order for them to practise unhindered.”
Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ) programmes manager, Nigel Nyamutumbu said journalists were defenders of correct information in the wake of fake news, hence they should have unfettered access to events, particularly State functions.
“It’s deplorable that journalists continue to be harassed and embarrassed, despite being providers of an essential information dissemination service.
“We, therefore, call on State and non-State actors to respect the critical functions of journalists and should facilitate access to events, particularly those that have to do with the State president,” said Nyamutumbu.
Efforts to get comment from Media, Information and Broadcasting Services permanent secretary Nick Mangwana were unsuccessful as he was not answering his mobile phone.
The discrimination and harassment against the journalists followed unsubstantiated accusations this week by the country’s securocrats that certain “malcontents”, including online journalists, were planning to make the country ungovernable leading to Mnangagwa’s ouster in a palace drama reminiscent of the November 2017 bloodless coup that jettisoned long-time ruler, former president Robert Mugabe.