The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) has assured safety and freedom to journalists as the country heads towards the election season, a period historically known to stifle the free will of journalism as a practice.
While addressing journalists and stakeholders on World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) commemorations at Khayalethu Gardens Lodge, ZRP Kwekwe District Public Relations Officer Assistant Inspector Nduna hailed ‘good relations’ with the media and reiterated the police’s duty to protect journalists from repressive forces during and after election period.
“Our mandate as the police is to uphold the constitution which is the supreme law of the land; there is no other law which precedes that. So freedom of journalists is also part and parcel of the constitution where freedom of expression is guaranteed.
As my boss Chief Superintendent Chapeta always says to fellow journalists here that we work with all journalists from every media house as long as we do not go beyond the law. It is also important that journalists be identifiable with accreditation cards; identify themselves to the police during rallies and events for the purpose of safety such that during disorder situations they may be identifiable whether one is journalist or a facilitator of public disorder.
As the police we do not undermine the power and importance of the media, we use the media to communicate for example on safety tips to members of the community, hence the media is a very important stakeholder to us as the police. ”said Ass. Insp. Nduna
WPFD running under the theme, Shaping the future of rights: Freedom of expression as a driver of all human rights, saw the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zimbabwe Kwekwe Chapter fronted celebrations being graced by journalists from diverse specialties, media houses and community based organisations converge, conversate on freedom of expression and that of the press as sacrosanct necessity worth celebrating and fighting for.
“Our presence here as Zimbabwe Network for People living with HIV/AIDS (ZNNP+) at WPFD commemorations is of great importance as we managed to interact and air out our views, grievances to the media, this ensures community access to information. It has been a good and a well-planned WPFD commemorations day.” Said Esther Phiri, a representative of ZNNP+ a Non-governmental organisation working with people living with HIV/AIDS on the side lines of the WPFD milestone.
Veteran journalist and MISA Zimbabwe Deputy Chairperson Ruth Butaumoto cautioned journalists on ethical considerations the practice is premised on as disregard of fundamentals has been on the rise ‘denting’ the media as a public good.
“In society for instance there are people who are complaining that they have been robbed money by a journalist because of a sensational story on them that means society no longer has confidence in us as journalists. I believe we have a robust and progressive role to play, we are the voice of the voiceless, that will only get meaning when we know the kind of responsibility we have.
As we go towards elections there are a lot of issues people are really concerned about, so the moment we take a USD20 bribe we no longer see the important role we play in society. We occupy important and fragile space hence we need to be credible and honest by ensuring that we are not found on the wrong side as there are people who entrust us to write about women issues.
WPFD is not just about us agitating the government to give us progressive laws but us also introspecting responsibilities we hold, ensuring and playing the roles we should play”. Butaumoto stressed
MISA Zimbabwe and other media organisations have been lobbying the government to put forth policy reforms in order to de-criminalise journalism and guarantee safety of practitioners.