(MISA/IFEX) - On 26 November 2010, Zimbabwean journalists and representative media organisations petitioned Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, expressing grave concern over the increase in the number of cases involving arrests and harassment of journalists.
The petition, signed by more than 100 journalists and media practitioners, was also copied to South African President Jacob Zuma in his capacity as the Southern African Development Community's (SADC) appointed mediator to Zimbabwe. Zuma was expected in Harare on the same day for meetings with President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Tsvangirai and his deputy, Professor Arthur Mutambara.
Noting the continued intimidation and harassment of journalists, the petitioners said the government should take all necessary steps to ensure the "cessation of all harassment, intimidation, illegal detention and criminalisation of the work of journalists, media practitioners and media houses".
This is especially urgent given the detention of "The Standard" journalist Nqobani Ndlovu in Khami Prison. This development came alongside the arrests of freelance journalists Andrison Manyere and Nkosana Dhlamini on 30 October while covering the constitution making process in Harare.
Ndlovu, who was arrested on 17 November, was released on 26 November after the High Court in Bulawayo decided against the state's appeal for his continued detention.
The petition, which was drawn under the auspices of the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ), was presented to Prime Minister Tsvangirai in Harare on behalf of MAZ by MISA-Zimbabwe Advocacy Committee Chairperson Kumbirai Mafunda, Committee Member Stanley Kwenda and Advocacy Officer Tabani Moyo.
MAZ comprises MISA-Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ), the Federation of African Media Women in Zimbabwe (FAMWZ), the Zimbabwe National Editors Forum (Zinef) and the Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ).
Urging the inclusive government to fulfil its commitments to media reforms, the petitioners, among other issues, called for the reconstitution of the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) in terms of the amendments to the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) and:
"To actively pursue the need to transform the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation into a truly independent public service broadcaster, that is free from undue political or editorial interference.
"To actively monitor the state-controlled print media to ensure equal, equitable and fair coverage of all political views to enable citizens access to diverse views and opinions."
The petition was also copied to SADC Executive Secretary Dr Tomaz Salamao, Speaker of Parliament the Honourable Lovemore Moyo, Senate President the Honourable Edna Madzongwe, the Minister of Media, Information and Publicity, Webster Shamu, and the Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Nelson Chamisa, among others.
The petition is a reaction by the media to, among other cases, the recent arrest and detention of Ndlovu in Bulawayo on 17 November. Ndlovu was initially being charged with contravening Section 96 (1) (a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. However, he now faces an additional charge in terms of Section 31 of the same Act.
The charges arise from a story written by Ndlovu in "The Standard" of 14 November, alleging that police promotional examinations were being scrapped to facilitate the absorption of war veterans and retired police officers into the police force ahead of the 2011 elections.
Click on the following link to read the full text of the petition:
Zimbabwe_petition.pdf (33 KB)