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MISA condemns assault on pregnant journalist

(MISA/IFEX) - 4 March 2011 - Paidamowo Chipunza, a journalist with the state controlled national daily, "The Herald", was, on 2 March 2011, assaulted while on duty by an assailant who boasted that he is related to a director of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO).

Chipunza, who is a senior health reporter and is six months pregnant, was punched in the stomach and slapped by Ignatius Zuze while she was covering a story about water problems at the Harare Central Hospital. Zuze, who is a student nurse, also turned on photographer Innocent Makawa and damaged his camera. He was arrested on allegations of assaulting the journalists and damaging a company vehicle and camera. According to "The Herald", Zuze admitted to assaulting the journalists, saying they had photographed him without his consent.

As to why he attacked a pregnant woman, he reportedly said: "We are equal. That is what they call gender equality. She is just like anyone else."

He boasted that nothing would happen to him since his uncle is a CIO director and said that the journalists were going to lose their jobs.

MISA-Zimbabwe condemns the assault and finds it appalling that the assailant attacked a pregnant woman. This episode highlights some of the extra-legal hindrances to free journalism enterprise. These types of violations of media freedoms are engendered by a culture of impunity where several cases involving attacks on journalists, especially those working for the independent media, by political party activists have largely been ignored by the authorities.

While MISA-Zimbabwe commends the police for arresting the accused nurse, they should go the extra mile and investigate and arrest other enemies of the media accused of harassing journalists working for the independent media, as well as those identified as having been involved in the destruction of independent newspapers and bombings of media houses.

This week, alleged Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU PF) supporters reportedly destroyed copies of the privately owned "NewsDay" newspaper and harassed vendors of the newspaper ahead of the launch by President Robert Mugabe of an anti-sanctions campaign in Harare. No action has been taken against the culprits or those accused of engaging in similar illegal actions last month.

In addition, no progress has been reported on investigations pertaining to the torching of a vehicle carrying copies of the privately-owned "Zimbabwean" in 2008 and the bombings of "The Daily News" newspaper's offices in 2000, as well as its printing press in 2001, and the Radio VOP offices in 2002.

The prompt response by the police to attacks on "The Herald" journalists and their seeming failure to act on any number of similar cases involving the private media only serves to demonstrate that they are biased in their actions and selectively enforce the law.

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