Mnangagwa's private press ban tragic

HARARE - Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa barred several private news organisations from an on-camera press briefing on Thursday night, handpicking a select group of State media reporters that he perceives to be friendly towards him.

The “gaggle” with the VP then took place before only a pool of State media journalists.

Outlets seeking to gain entry whose requests were denied included the Daily News and other private media. State publications such as the The Herald, The Sunday Mail, the State TV, ZBC, and State news agency Ziana, were allowed into the meeting.

It is highly unusual for Munhumutapa to cherry-pick which media outlets can participate in what would have otherwise been the presidency’s briefing. The briefing was obviously indispensable for journalists trying to interpret the often contradictory statements coming out of the administration, over the VP’s poisoning saga.

The move by Mnangagwa and his Press team is a deeply troubling and divisive act. We have vigorously rejected media polarisation, which is clearly being formented by the VP, who should know better.

Holding power to account is an essential part of the democratic process, and that’s exactly what the Daily News will continue to do.

We would like to protest strongly against Mnangagwa’s action. Free media access to a transparent government is obviously of crucial national interest.

This is an unacceptable development by Mnangagwa’s Press team.

Apparently, it seems this is how the VP retaliates when we report facts he doesn’t like. But rest assured, we will keep reporting regardless. The public should have as much access to the VP as possible.

Our reporters lingered in the VP office’s hallway out of frustration as the press briefing was underway.

There was a silver lining though. The State media organisations that were allowed in shared the material with others in the private press corps who were not. We are heartened that some State media journalists stood with us when Mnangagwa’s team tried to exclude us. A Munhumutapa gaggle should be open to all credentialed journalists holding a Zimbabwe Media Commission Press card.

Nothing like this has ever happened in our long history of covering events at Munhumutapa — the citadel of government power. Our reporting will remain fair and impartial regardless.

While we strongly object to the VP’s apparent attempt to punish news outlets whose coverage he does not like, we won’t let these latest antics distract us from the work of continuing to cover this administration fairly and aggressively.

The Daily News has a representative at regular Munhumutapa briefings, so we are not clear why we were barred from Thursday’s.

We will seek clarification from Media, Information and Broadcasting Services minister Chris Mushohwe and the Munhumutapa Press team led by George Charamba. We know these two gentleman do not support this kind of media tyranny being exhibited by the VP’s team.

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