Mukoko: State media colleagues were my biggest let down

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By Robert Tapfumaneyi

PROMINENT Human rights activist and former ZBC-TV newscaster, Jestina Mukoko says she is still haunted by the level of State media propaganda against her during the time she was abducted, tortured and later charged with subversion by the government over a decade ago.

Mukoko said she was horrified to watch national television news in which fellow journalists she had worked with and befriended described her as a terrorist.

“I would watch the news being referred to as a terrorist by people I considered my friends,” she told in an interview.

“I was described as a terrorist regardless of the fact that I had spent 10 years working with some of those people.”

Mukoko was a popular news anchor with State broadcaster ZBC TV for a decade before she left and joined the NGO sector where she has stood out as a human rights defender.

Abducted in 2008 and later charged with recruiting people for military training, the human rights defender said since the ordeal, she has never been accorded an opportunity to clear her name despite the fact that the charges against her were later dropped.

“I would say probably the private media have done quite well in terms of profiling me. I think I continue to be very disappointed that I invested my prime life at the public broadcaster where I made my first friends in the media fraternity.

“And when the world closed in on me, no one bothered to come and hear my side of the story,” she said, shaking her head.

Mukoko added: “But, I would watch the news as I was characterised as a terrorist by people I considered to be my friends. People who would have just easily talked to me for my side of the story. They knew me or so I thought.

“But I think in terms of the private media that has been really been consistent in terms of hearing my side of the story.”

Now a director with Zimbabwe Peace Project, Mukoko was abducted and tortured by state agents in 2008 and kept in communicado for three weeks with authorities professing ignorance on her whereabouts.

After almost a month, Mukoko appeared before a Magistrate charged with recruiting people for military training to try to overthrow former President Robert Mugabe’s government.

In September 2009, the Supreme Court ordered a permanent stay of criminal proceedings against her.