Parliament Demands Negative Covid-19 Certificates From Journalists

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By Robert Tapfumaneyi

JOURNALISTS seeking to cover parliament from both the gallery and during committee meetings are now required to first produce certificates confirming they have tested negative for Covid-19.

This was announced in a statement by parliament’s public relations department.

“Covid-19, both Houses of Parliament will resume sitting with effect from 16 February 2021 with only 30 members for the National Assembly and 25 members for the Senate attending physically.

“Parliament is therefore requesting only 4 journalists to sit in each press gallery, two from public media and two private alternating with freelance.

“Please note that this is on 1st come bases.”

The statement added, “Those who intend to cover the gallery are required to present their negative Covid certificates as they enter the building.

“Zoom credentials will be sent on this platform for those who want to cover virtually.”

It costs between US$50-US$60 to be tested for Covid-19 within local laboratories.

However, MISA Zimbabwe national director Tabani Moyo said the house was making it technically impossible for journalists to cover parliament.

“It was going to be fair if parliament was going to absorb the cost of testing people at point of entry because the government has an obligation in ensuring that it promotes media freedom, access to information so that the people of Zimbabwe are in the know in terms of what their representatives in the house are discussing,” Moyo told Monday.

“So, beyond the permeation of how the media houses can meet the cost, logistically it becomes impossible to cover parliament and technically what they have done is to issue a gag order to say parliament can no longer be covered through ensuring administrative bottlenecks.”

He also questioned the formula used to select the number of journalists from state and private media.

“I am not sure of the formula used and how they arrived at two state media and two private including freelance journalists,” Moyo said.

“The whole essence of them reducing it to state media two, private media two, I think it is a bit unfortunate.

“Once you declare certain industry essential service like the media, then there is the need not to be seen disaggregating and discriminating, there is need for you to be fair in terms of how you reach to the numbers.”