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Zimbabwe not your tuckshop



MEDIA organisations have condemned attempts to gag the media by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba (pictured), who this week threatened to jail journalists for reporting on Al Jazeera’s gold smuggling and money laundering investigation.

 Charamba’s most vicious invective was directed at The NewsHawks — which is hardly surprising, considering the important role we play as Zimbabwe’s leading digital investigative journalism and breaking news platform.

For a long time, the clueless propagandists and apologists of misrule have sought to falsely portray independent media as enemies of Zimbabwe. The reality, of course, is that the real enemies of progress are those who abuse their proximity to Zanu PF to loot public resources with impunity.

The NewsHawks is an independent, open, fair and objective publication. We hold no brief for anyone. Our only obligation is to the truth and our loyalty is to the readers. This does not necessarily mean we are clueless and neutral on important matters of the day. Far from it. We do not shy away from robust debate.

The most enlightened societies are driven by ideas and fresh insights, rather than dogma and misguided ideologies. Journalism has changed — and we must change with it. Democracy demands it.

The NewsHawks is barely three years old, meaning we are, in many respects, still a media start-up. In that connection, we find it utterly amusing that the likes of Charamba, who never waste an opportunity to gratuitously badmouth The NewsHawks, are the same elements who are always throwing brickbats at us. If we are journalistic midgets as you claim, why do you spend the entire day nitpicking on our news articles? Do you see how ridiculous you have become? Our journalists have solid professional track records. We are not easily cowed.

Free expression and media freedom are guaranteed by section 61 of the Zimbabwean constitution. Even under international law, governments have an obligation to ensure the full enjoyment of these rights. Any attempt by the authorities to criminalise journalism has a chilling effect on free expression and Press freedom.

 It is tragic that a bombastic civil servant, who draws a salary from long-suffering taxpayers, thinks he holds the title deeds to the republic. He has failed to learn from history.

Charamba’s former bosses — Canaan Sodindo Banana and Robert Gabriel Mugabe — were once at the pinnacle of power in this country.

But what happened to them? What is their legacy, all things considered? Of all people, Charamba should know that change is the only constant in life; one moment you are the cock of the walk — and the next moment you are nothing but a feather duster. Power is fleeting and people are fickle. Nothing lasts forever.

There is something tragic about Zanu PF leaders’ assumption that they can practise primitive Stone Age politics in a 21st century global community and get away with murder.
Right now, government officials are doggedly hyping up the Private Voluntary Organisations Bill, currently awaiting presidential assent. This Orwellian law will drag Zimbabwe 30 years backwards. It will spook the donor community, hampering the flow of badly needed resources to the most vulnerable members of society.

A lot of the medicines in Mnangagwa’s crumbling public hospitals are from foreign donors. Orphans, widows and the desperately poor are looked after by foreigners. There are countless community nutrition gardens, income-generating projects, household resilience schemes and education programmes funded by donors. It is satanic that some political elites who benefitted from an education funded by Western donors are now at the forefront of denying fellow Zimbabweans those same opportunities.

How cruel are these chaps?

All these poverty-stricken citizens — whose only “crime” is to receive assistance from foreign donors — could soon find themselves stranded, thanks to the whim of brutal, uncaring and unaccountable politicians. And yet it is this same government that has looted, plundered and vandalised the economy, reducing citizens to crying paupers.

As we have written in these pages before, every self-respecting Zimbabwean can see the grotesque irony of a government that brings out the begging bowl and tells foreigners that Zimbabwe is “open for business” — and yet barely a week later the same
Zanu PF cabal is enacting laws criminalising interaction between Zimbabweans and foreigners.

And there is really no justification for attempting to muzzle the media. Throughout history, authoritarian kleptocrats who have sought to silence journalists have eventually come to grief.

Journalism is not a crime.

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