By Anna Chibamu
THREE journalists covering a Harare full council meeting were bundled onto a police truck when anti-riot police working with President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s crack anti-corruption unit stormed session Thursday.
The three are Munashe Chokodza who is employed by online media 263Chat, Blessing Chidhakwa (Herald) and Takunda Mandura (Open Parly).
The journalists later told newzimbabwe.com from Harare Central police they were bundled into police vehicles as councillors and staff were arrested for charges yet to be divulged.
The incident came moments after Mnangagwa’s Special Anti-Corruption Unit (Sacu) stormed full council meeting Thursday detaining all in attendance.
Meanwhile, media rights lobby, Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)-Zimbabwe has blasted government for the arrest on journalists.
“The arrest of journalists whilst they are carrying out their duties is a violation of the Constitution as provided by the same document under section 61 which provides for the right for the media to perform their duties without any interference from the State or any other forces within the country,” MISA director Tabani Moyo said in a statement.
“Journalists have been bundled into targeted arrests of Councillors. They were not spared even after producing their accreditation cards from Zimbabwe Media Commission. This entails that this is a deliberate violation of the Constitution.
“The country cannot pretend on one hand that they are pro-reforms and on the other they then crack down on journalists. The President assumed office on the promise that he was breaking with the past but since then, 34 cases of journalists being attacked have been reported and this is unacceptable, deplorable and should be a cause of concern to the country.
“He cannot shoot down the messenger literally. If one does not like the messenger, he or she should attend to the issues that are in the message.”
He warned government to lead by example to show that it is in compliance with its own Constitution.
Secretary General of the Young Journalists Association (YOJA) Philemon Jambaya also condemned the arrest of the media practitioners.
“We condemn in the strongest of terms the continued harassment of journalists as it is not in sync with the constitution.
“We hope they will be released tonight. The continued attempt to muzzle the media is not what the new dispensation promised its citizens and it is our hope that the police and other responsible authorities will address this,” said Jambaya.
However, asked for comment on the journalists’ arrests, Information Ministry permanent secretary Nick Mangwana said the scribes were going to be released without charge.
“Any journalist who may have been rounded by the police will be released. Currently, they are just confirming who is a journalist and who is not,” Mangwana said.