The Congress of African Journalists (CAJ) has expressed concern over the deteriorating press freedom situation in Zimbabwe and called on the government of Zimbabwe to stop harassing and arresting journalists.
CAJ is worried over the rising cases of attacks and arrests of Journalists in Zimbabwe, including attacks on extended family members of the targeted journalists.
On July 30, police raided the house of an investigative journalist, Mduduzi Mathuthu over claims that he was “organizing and advocating for illegal demonstrations against the government of Zimbabwe”, and arrested his sister after failing to get him at home.
His three nephews, including a journalism student, Tawanda Muchehiwa were abducted in Bulawayo city.
The student journalist was reportedly tortured by his captors and is currently hospitalized after receiving injuries to his kidneys.
On July 20, security officers arrested a prominent investigative journalist, Hopewell Chin’ono who had published a report on corruption in the procurement of COVID-19 related essential supplies in the Ministry of Health. Chin’ono and Mathuthu have exposed corruption in government in the recent past.
Chin’ono has since been charged with “incitement to participate in public violence” and has been denied bail and remains in prison.
The cases of harassment and arrests are on the increase despite an order in April 2020 by the High Court in Zimbabwe, which urged the police to stop harassing and arresting journalists in the course of their work.
According to the Zimbabwean Union of Journalists (ZUJ) the situation is deteriorating
and journalists can no longer freely work or travel around the country and a number are
being targeted by the security agencies in the wake of rising political discontent and
demonstrations to protest over corruption.
“We urge the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa to stop the increasing wave of attacks and arrests of journalists and allow press freedom to thrive to aid the free access to and flow of information on COVID-19 and others issues for the benefit of Zimbabweans,” said CAJ Interim President Alexandre
The CAJ has noted with dismay that the climate of restrictions, censorship, harassment, and intimidation of journalists in the course of their work has intensified. The crackdown on Zimbabwean journalists was unacceptable and was undermining internationally accepted tenets of press freedom and democracy, which the country says it upholds.
“We call for the immediate release of Chin’ono and a stop to the harassment of
Mathuthu and his family and a guarantee of freedom for all journalists in
Zimbabwe to do their work” added the CAJ President.