Police warn journalists against travelling with politicians ahead of July elections; set up compromises security

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By James Muonwa l Mashonaland West Correspondent

ZIMBABWE Republic Police (ZRP) has cautioned media practitioners against travelling to rallies and other political gatherings aboard vehicles belonging to politicians.

The arrangement, which exposes the lack of resources to fund journalistic work across the sector, reportedly compromises the personal security of scribes in the event of public disorder.

Addressing journalists in Chinhoyi Wednesday, ZRP national spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said there were several cases where journalists move around with political actors.

He said this makes it difficult to distinguish politicians from newsmen, who must be spared beatings or other forms of public order management tactics, should the environment turn chaotic.

“As we go towards elections, we have a problem when journalists move around with politicians. In the process, when there is conflict or contestation and people fight, police will beat up people, including journalists.

“Divorce yourselves from politicians, don’t be used and compromised by politicians. As journalists we appreciate the important role you play and your protection is guaranteed by police as enshrined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe,” said Nyathi.

The police spokesperson accused some scribes of overzealousness by actually provoking security details and refusing to take instructions from them, arguing they were itching “to get the exclusive story.”

Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ) programmes manager, Nigel Nyamutumbu implored the law enforcers to protect journalists before, during and after the upcoming plebiscite.

“I want us to appreciate and understand the role of journalists during the electoral cycle that they are not extensions of commissariat departments of political parties or PR (public relations) extensions of political parties, essentially they are not part of the story.” said Nyamutumbu.

He added: “They are not at rallies as supporters or participants, but professionals. We do know and appreciate that there would be circumstances that would require you (police) to restore some order or demand application of minimum force in the discharge of that.

“We implore, through your various police command structures, that when journalists are caught up in public disorder situations, please police must provide a safe haven.”

The interface organised by Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) was aimed at creating rapport between media practitioners and ZRP to ensure the safety of journalists ahead of 2023 harmonised elections.