Police summon anti-corruption NGO for convening journalists seminar

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By Staff Reporter

DETECTIVES from Harare’s CID Law and Order division have summoned for questioning, leaders of the anti-corruption NGO, Information for Development Trust (IDT) over a workshop it held with journalists at a city restaurant Friday.

A caller who identified himself as Detective Sergeant Manatse rang the IDT offices Monday afternoon and demanded to know the organisation’s physical address.

He reportedly said he was considering summoning the organisation’s staff to Harare Central police station for questioning.

“A caller who identified himself as a Sergeant with Law and Order called using a hidden number and asked me for directions to our offices,” IDT national coordinator, Tawanda Majoni told on Monday.

“He said he was aware that we held what he called a meeting and said he was considering summoning IDT to Harare Central police station.”

Majoni asked the caller whether IDT had broken any of the country’s laws by convening the meeting, which discussed ways to promote collaboration between journalists and civil society organisations in information sharing.

The caller reportedly told him he was “complicating issues” by asking questions.

“It’s not clear why the police did not approach me during the meeting. Of course, if properly summoned, we are prepared to cooperate with the police.

“There is nothing to hide and no law was broken,” said Majoni.

Some of the sources who attended the Friday seminar reported that they noticed at least two men who milled around the restaurant and behaved strangely.

Media rights watchdogs were informed of the incident that journalists have since described as “spooky”.

Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) secretary general Foster Dongozi condemned the police intimidation on journalists and media practitioners going about their lawful duties.

“Naturally, we find that a bit unsettling that people are being summoned to the law and order section,” Dongozi said.

“We are watching the development and we hope this is not an issue that will end up spiralling out of control and unnecessarily attracting the attention of the international community.

“We condemn all activities that terrify and terrorise journalists and media workers. It is certainly unacceptable that police in this day and age continue to haunt media houses and media practitioners.”

IDT, a media advocacy group seeking to promote access to information on governance, transparency and accountability, is currently implementing an investigative journalism project focusing on public sector corruption.

IDT chairperson, Reyhana Masters emphasised the need for authorities to work hand in glove with civic groups to fight rampant corruption which President Emmerson Mnangagwa has often spoken against.

“As the Information for Development Trust, we want to connect the media to the public and vice versa through our investigative pieces.

“We believe that Zimbabwe’s development and future growth is intrinsically linked to curbing corruption, especially in the public sector.

“To foster this strong sense of accountability, the IDT holds discussions so the media and public can discuss both practical solutions to rampant corruption and build stronger institutions of accountability.”

She added, “We want the public to drive the content in the media and in turn we want the media to help nurture a discerning public that needs factual and accurate information from the media.

“We are encouraging professionalism and accountability and we welcome the opportunity to discuss with the authorities.”

Government has threatened unspecified action on local NGOs allegedly dabbling in politics.