Govt must explain threats to Press
CITIZENS’ Coalition for Change (CCC) legislator for Dzivaresekwa, Edwin Mushoriwa, has challenged Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa to answer questions regarding threats against the media by presidential spokesperson George Charamba, saying his threats are likely to further taint Zimbabwe’s image.
Charamba issued a series of threats to the media, accusing them of defaming people implicated in the blockbuster corruption investigation by Qatari news channel, Al Jazeera, which exposes how people closely linked to President Emmerson Mnangagwa are smuggling gold and laundering money.
“If you are reckless enough to repeat what this phony documentary defamatorily says, hoping to plead: ‘I heard/saw it on Al Jazeera’, you will be sorry for yourself. Do not for once think there is no grit to act against reckless, defamatory and politically motivated journalism. Faceless Twitter names egging you on will not be factor when brickbats come. Be warned!” said Charamba through his Twitter handle @Tinoedza Zvimwe1.
This week, Mushoriwa challenged Mutsvangwa to come to the National Assembly to update the House on the government’s commitment to media freedom following Charamba’s remarks which have sent shock waves amongst media practitioners.
“Thank you for giving me this opportunity to raise this matter of national importance. The last few days, the Deputy Chief Secretary and presidential spokesperson Mr George Charamba issued a chilling threat to the media fraternity in respect to the exposé of the Al Jazeera gold issues.
“We want the relevant minister to come before this august House and explain whether or not our own government is now no longer committed to the freedom of Press. What has happened is actually a threat of the highest magnitude and that is why the minister should come to this House and give us a statement,” Mushoriwa said.
Ruling Zanu PF chief whip Pupurai Togarepi interjected, saying: “The presidential spokesperson is not in Parliament, so let us not talk about what we see on social media in this House.”
However, Mushoriwa said Charamba’s threats should not be taken lightly as they are similar to those issued by former Information minister Jonathan Moyo which preceded the bombing of a local daily paper The Daily News.
“Yesterday, we were waiting for the minister of Information and Publicity but unfortunately, she did not come in. Our view is that this is an important issue and a matter that shall make Zimbabwe to be painted black,” he said.
Zimbabwe is listed among countries that violated Press freedom in 2022.
Journalists and media outlets in Somalia, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria faced continual attacks, censorship and pressure in November, according to a fact sheet by the International Press Institute (IPI) in its Press monitoring report for November 2022.
According to the report, in total 43 Press freedom threats or violations were identified in November across 16 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
According to IPI data, state actors — such as state security agents or police, were involved in a vast majority of these incidents.
Civic organisations have also red-flagged the government over the Private Voluntary Organisations Bill, which has been viewed as an attempt to close the civic space.
In 2022, state actors also threatened rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, according rights watchdog, Amnesty International.
“Journalists were arrested under the cybercrimes law; the Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) Amendment Bill was introduced to Parliament; and members and supporters of the Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC), the main opposition party, were intimidated, harassed, attacked and assaulted during parliamentary and local government by-elections which took place in March,” Amnesty International said in a report.