Zim urged to guarantee journos’ safety

Global media watchdog, the Committee for the Protection of Journalists, on Friday urged Zimbabwe to guarantee the safety of journalists after a reporter was beaten up and detained by police.

Tapiwa Zivira, a journalist with the privately-owned NewsDay newspaper was attacked days after President Robert Mugabe’s wife Grace accused reporters at independent newspapers of writing lies about her.

Zivira was attacked with batons after filming police beating street vendors and others, the CPJ said.

NewsDay said that during the assault police referred to Grace Mugabe’s accusations.

“Public figures should have a high tolerance for criticism and should never disparage independent journalists for doing their work,” Sue Valentine, the CPJ’s co-ordinator for Africa, said in a statement.

“Such comments clearly can put journalists at risk of harassment or violence.”

At a rally last week ahead of the ruling ZANU-PF’s congress in December, Grace Mugabe, 49, said journalists from the private press were getting bribes to write negative stories about her since her nomination to lead the party’s women’s wing.

She repeated the claim at another rally on Thursday, saying a privately-owned daily was being paid by Vice-President Joice Mujuru, whom she accused of harbouring plans to topple Mugabe.

Journalists in Zimbabwe have in the past been targeted by political thugs at the instigation of politicians.

The Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) condemned Grace Mugabe’s attack on journalists and called on politicians to desist from making threats against reporters.

“The union condemns any attempts by public officials, politicians or other powerful individuals or institutions to threaten, silence or endanger journalists for doing their work,” Foster Dongozi, ZUJ secretary general said.

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“We appeal to public officials to avoid actions or language which could result in journalists having their safety and protection compromised.”

Zimbabwe introduced tough media laws in 2002 which have been used to detain journalists and expel foreign correspondents.

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