Coup government partly owes its rise to the independent press, says Mutsvangwa

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PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa is a beneficiary of a free press and his administration should be at the forefront of protecting media personnel, his special advisor Christopher Mutsvangwa said.

Mutsvangwa told a Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Press Freedom Day event in Harare that he still had misgivings about “things” around the regulation of the press in Zimbabwe.

“President Mnangagwa was a beneficiary of the free press in November last year when the odds where heavily staked against him given how the state media had been captured,” said Mutsvangwa.

On November 6 last year, Mnangagwa then Vice President in former President Robert Mugabe’s administration, was fired and went into exile reportedly fearing for his life. The move triggered a military intervention that placed Mugabe under house arrest allowing Zanu PF to push for change and install Mnangagwa as leader.

The state media initially reported the military move on November 14 as an “act of treason”.Mnangagwa’s statements found space in the privately owned media. Even then Commander of the Defence Forces and now Vice President Constantino Chiwenga’s statement on November 13 threatening military intervention was initially not published in the state media.

Mutsvangwa, speaking a day before Press Freedom Day, applauded the local media for the way it handled the change of government. He, however, indicated that the government seems to have recoiled into its old way of doing things.

“You (the press) did a good job and you are a key player. But I must stay after the events in November the State reverted to itself. I believe in a free press and there are things now that I am uncomfortable with.

“We must ensure that everything that stands in the way of press freedom should be removed,” the former deputy Foreign Affairs Minister said.