Mushohwe slams attack of Daily News journalists

HARARE - Media, Information and Broadcasting Services minister Christopher Mushohwe yesterday condemned the assault by police of two Daily News journalists who were covering a demonstration that rocked parts of Harare’s central business district on Friday.

Mugove Tafirenyika, a senior reporter for the leading independent daily and photojournalist Brighton Goko, were left for dead after police fired rubber bullets at them.

The police, who were indiscriminately firing pellets at civilians, seriously injured Tafirenyika and Goko who were on duty. Tafirenyika was also beaten unconscious and suffered serious head injuries.

With the help of good Samaritans, they were rushed to a local private hospital where they were admitted in the intensive care unit. Goko was discharged on Monday while Tafirenyika was discharged yesterday. They are now both in a stable condition.

“The law protects journalists who should be allowed to pursue their vocation unhindered and without fear or risk of bodily harm or injury,” Mushohwe said in a statement yesterday..

“In the meantime, government urges all media houses in the country to ensure that their staff members are clad in attire that make for easy identification of journalists on duty. Indeed, this requirement came from the media industry itself, although it is still to be implemented.

“On its part, the ministry of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services continues to liaise with law-enforcement agencies to ensure maximum safety for journalists on duty, of course to cultivate a healthy relationship between media personnel and law and order officers dealing with riotous situations that threaten the peace.

“My ministry wishes speedy recovery to the affected journalists,” Mushohwe said.

The Editor-in-Chief of the Daily News Hama Saburi urged authorities to investigate the attack and bring those responsible to justice.

“It is deplorable, shameful, disgraceful, and totally uncalled for. It is absurd in the extreme to criminalise the work of journalists in the 21st century and inflict the most grievous pain on members of the fourth estate when all they will be seeking to do is to go about their professional duties as society’s most trusted eyes and ears,” said Saburi.

“We believe journalists deserve better, especially from the police. If anything, police should be assisting media practitioners as they go about their duties in the wider context of creating a safe Zimbabwe in which all citizens feel safe and protected to exercise their rights without having to look over their shoulders in case ‘big brother’ is watching them. Is this too much to ask for?”

Saburi said police must be ashamed of themselves for what happened on Friday, saying the police’s leadership must take full responsibility for it.

“It is sad that police continue to act with impunity, as this is not the first time that journalists have been brutally attacked by law enforcement agents without having been provoked.

“In fact, it is becoming the norm for journalists to be on the receiving end of overzealous police officers each time there is a demonstration.

“One shudders to think what else could be in store for media practitioners now that we are about to enter the silly season of election contests,” said Saburi.

Press freedom groups have also urged government to take steps to ensure freedom of expression and assembly.

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