Journalists are part of essential service in the ongoing lockdown period which the Zimbabwean Government announced on Saturday, therefore their line of work should not be hindered but rather protected during the course of enforcing COVID-19 regulations.
This came to light in a letter of appeal presented to the Commissioner General of the Police by Media Institute of Southern Africa yesterday, dated 4th of January 2021.
The detailed letter appeals to the police to take cognizance of journalists in their line of duty during the ongoing lockdown period.
This is mainly to ensure that journalists may not suffer another blow in the manner of the first lockdown where their majority fallen prey in the hands of law enforcers.
“MISA Zimbabwe is humbly reaching out and appealing to your esteemed offices to ensure the safety and security of journalists, who in terms of the regulations are providers of essential services.”
“Our appeal and concern on the safety and security of journalists is informed by the media freedom violations
that ensued when the country implemented the first national lockdown measures in March 2020.”
Several journalists were either assaulted or harassed by law enforcement officers for reportedly violating the
COVID-19 regulations and undertaking their lawful professional duties using the then expired Zimbabwe Media Commission-issued accreditation cards,” reads the letter addressed by Golden Maunganidze MISA Zimbabwe National Chairperson.
MISA ZIMBABWE was also proactive during the first lockdown period last year in seeking protection of journalists and this was done in a case taken to the High Court.
Many journalists were arrested nationwide and this generated into a media outcry where MISA ZIMBABWE intervened through means of litigation. Against this background the media advocacy formally made a request to the law enforcers to observe the rights of journalists during the current lockdown period.
“It is against that background that MISA Zimbabwe obtained a High Court order barring the police and other law enforcement agencies charged with the enforcement of the COVID-19 lockdown regulations not to arrest,
detain or interfere “in any unnecessary way” with the work of journalists.”
In light of the current national lockdown, MISA Zimbabwe is therefore appealing to your esteemed office, to
ensure that journalists as providers of essential services conduct their professional responsibilities of disseminating and facilitating access to information on the pandemic and government’s measures and efforts to contain the virus, without any hindrance.”