MISA Zimbabwe has condemned the arrest of Alpha Media Holdings (AMH) journalists Blessed Mhlanga and Chengeto Chidi on Saturday, 7 May in Chitungwiza.
In a statement, MISA Zimbabwe said the arrest of the two journalists is concerning as it comes barely a week after World Press Freedom Day commemorations. Reads the statement:
The arrest of the two journalists is quite concerning as it comes barely a week after Zimbabwe hosted national and regional World Press Freedom Day commemorations, where local authorities reiterated their commitment to freedom of expression and the media.
Even in circumstances where the authorities may think a crime has been committed, there is no need for heavy-handedness such as the smashing of phones and detaining the journalists overnight.
In essence where have a Police-Media Action plan, a platform that we established to handle challenges from both parties which the police can utilise if the need arises.
Journalists have been reporting in the line of fire for too long in Zimbabwe.
We call upon the police to imperatively stop the harassment of journalists while there are discharging their duties that are constitutionally guaranteed.
In this, we reiterate that journalism is not a crime!
Mhlanga and Chidi were in Chitungwiza working on a story on water challenges in the dormitory town.
While interviewing residents at a borehole, they observed the police attempting to arrest Job Sikhala, the local legislator for the St Mary’s constituency, and they started recording the incident.
Police arrested the duo, and one of the officers allegedly physically assaulted Mhlanga and smashed his mobile phone on the ground.
The police also confiscated the journalists’ phones and cameras and detained them overnight on Saturday at Harare Central Police Station.
Mhlanga and Chidi were charged for contravening Section 25 of Statutory Instrument (SI) 21/05.
The sections prohibit the taking of photos within a polling station while voting is in progress.
The journalists’ lawyer, Jeremiah Bamu, attended to them early on Sunday morning when the police were drafting the warned and cautioned statement.
Mhlanga and Chidi are expected to appear in court on Monday 9 May 2022.
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