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Journalists assaulted at parliament building

(MISA/IFEX) - Journalists Aaron Ufumeli and Lev Mukarati were, on 23 July 2011, reportedly assaulted and harassed by suspected Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU PF) supporters who were part of a public hearing on the Human Rights Bill that is being conducted at the Parliament of Zimbabwe in Harare.

Ufumeli, the chief photographer with Alpha Media Holdings, publishers of "The Standard", "Zimbabwe Independent" and "Newsday" newspapers, was manhandled by a mob that tried to grab his camera, while others demanded that he delete the pictures he had taken.

Mukarati, who works for the "Financial Gazette", was punched and kicked by the crowd. The mob accused the journalists, who work for privately-owned media outlets, of writing falsehoods, not singing the national anthem and working for the "wrong papers".

The member of parliament for Hwange, Brian Tshuma, was also reportedly assaulted by the crowd.

MISA-Zimbabwe condemns these assaults and calls on the police to deal with this lawlessness and arrest any members of the pubic who are bent on violating the media's right to access information and the right of citizens to freedom of expression and freedom of association.

The fact that the attacks happened at the parliament building, with an MP reportedly being assaulted in front of the police, speaks volumes about these acts of impunity that place the lives of journalists and innocent citizens at great risk.

This lawlessness is very worrisome given that the Parliament of Zimbabwe is not only a high security zone but is also supposed to be the citadel of civility and permissive of diverse views, as evidenced by the multi-party composition of both the House of Assembly and the Senate.

The fact that none of the assailants were arrested gives the culprits free reign and endangers the lives of Zimbabwean journalists, especially those working for the privately-owned press since their safety and security cannot be guaranteed by the police as they conduct their lawful professional duties throughout the country.

The three heads of the inclusive government, President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his deputy professor, Arthur Mutambara, as well as their respective political parties, should demand explanations from the police regarding what transpired for the purpose of accounting for the culprits who should face the full wrath of the law.

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