Last night, 24 June 2020 Soldiers too matters into their own hands and assaulted journalists Munashe Chokodza and Leopold Munhende. The journalists work for online news sites 263Chat and NewZimbabwe.com respectively.
This is what happened:
When the journalists dropped off at Warren Park shopping centre, the army was apparently dispersing people from the shopping centre. They stopped the two and questioned them as to why they were not observing the lockdown regulations. Both Munhende and Chokodza produced their press cards and explained that they were coming from work, as they are part of the essential service workers.
The soldiers apparently remarked, “You journalists think you are special in this country”, before ordering them to roll on the ground and assaulted the duo with whips. They both sustained injuries in the process.
MISA Zimbabwe Lawyer Chris Mhike is assisting the journalists in reporting the case with the police for them to access medical care.
The Zimbabwe Online Content Creators, the association for online journalists in Zimbabwe issued a statement condemning the unfortunate incident saying:
We are greatly unsettled by recent assault by soldiers on fellow journalists Leopold Munhende of NewZbabwe and Munashe Chakodza of 263Chat. We had a chat with Nick Mangwana who promised his commitment to make sure such acts of lawlessness are dealt with. closely following the developments.
MISA Zimbabwe also condemned the acts of barbarism by…men and women in uniform:
MISA Zimbabwe position
MISA Zimbabwe condemns these acts of barbarism by our men and women in uniform. Journalists cannot continue to be punching bags for daring to perform their professional duties, which are defined in the constitution with such impunity. These acts of barbarism are unacceptable in a country that claims to be a democracy, worse off 40 years after independence.
The assault of these journalists shows a clear disregard of media freedom by members of the security forces. It is a violation of Section 61 of the Constitution, the High Court ruling on the 20th of April 2020, which recognized the role of the media during the lockdown and the government’s statutory instrument classifying the media as an essential service in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Section 44 of the Constitution is very clear that the State and every person including state agencies at every level must respect, protect, promote and fulfil the declaration of rights.
MISA Zimbabwe seeks to emphasize that media freedom is essential to the creation of an open and democratic society and should not be interfered with. Journalists are contributing meaningfully to the general public’s access to information and as such their role should be recognized and respected.
MISA Zimbabwe, therefore, re-emphasizes to all the security forces and the general public that journalism is not a crime!
Here at Zim Updates we also condemn these inhuman acts by the military against the members of the fourth estate. We urge members of the military to use the powers they have responsibly and constitutionally to serve the people of Zimbabwe.