Speaker addresses scribes' concerns

HARARE - Speaker of the National Assembly, Jacob Mudenda says he will soon deliver a ruling on the shocking abuse and harassment of journalists by some overzealous  security officials at the august House last week.

Mudenda has been under pressure to rescue journalists, who were last week ordered to switch off their cell phones and cameras during a parliamentary session that ironically was being beamed live on national television.

On Tuesday, Mudenda, who did not give a date for his ruling, heard grievances from scribes drawn from both the private and public media.

The journalists told him that the ban on mobile phones and cameras is not only archaic in the era of social media but also compromises their work.

In his response, Mudenda assured journalists that he would consider their concerns before he announces his ruling.

“I have heard your concerns and I shall be making a ruling soon on the matter,” said the Speaker adding “there are matters of national security I have to consider and I have to strike a balance.”

He conceded that journalists had a valid point because news is now travelling fast through social media.

Foster Dongozi, secretary general of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (Zuj) said Parliament should not employ its rules to gag reporters.

“As a union, we had already begun to engage Parliament and we are in the process of compiling names of reporters covering Parliament so that we train them on rules governing Parliament. However, those rules should not make it impossible for journalists to do their jobs.  The meeting is really welcome because at the end of the day, the winner is Zimbabwe.

“The country cannot be in the news for the wrong reasons of banning the media in Parliament.”

James Maridadi, the MDC MP for Mabvuku-Tafara, last week pressed Mudenda to protect journalists arguing that journalistic gadgets should not be switched off during sessions.

“In terms of Section 62 of the Constitution every citizen and Zimbabwe media must have a right to access information. On Wednesday (last week) members of the fourth estate were ordered to switch off cell phones and barred from taking pictures in the House,” Maridadi said.

“It is an infringement of access to information. We want an investigation on who ordered them to switch off their cell phones and whether the order came from you, Mr Speaker.”

On Wednesday last week, security personnel at the august House threatened to confiscate cameras and cell phones from journalists if they used them during a tense parliamentary session where MPs openly clashed.

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