MISA-Zimbabwe has condemned the attack of two journalists on Thursday by Chitungwiza municipal police on the instructions of the mayor, Philip Mutoti.
Freelance journalists Philimon Jambaya and Edgar Gweshe were beaten up by members of the Chitungwiza municipal police as they were covering a demonstration led by the Chitungwiza Residents Trust (CHITREST) at Chitungwiza municipal offices.
The two scribes were blocked from taking photographs of approximately 60 demonstrators who were protesting against lack of information relating to full council meetings.
Residents had previously been denied access to full council meetings held on 5 February and 31 March 2015.
Jambaya sustained injuries as a result of the attack and he reported the case to St Mary’s police station (RRB-2416660) after being discharged from South Med hospital.
Some of the residents who were at the demonstration said Mutoti incited the attack on the journalists.
“He shouted to the councilors and the police to beat them up. He even said,“imi macouncilors hamuna samba here rekurwisa vanhu ava” (you councilors can you not beat up these people)”.
MISA-Zimbabwe senior programmes officer Nyasha Nyakunu said the attack on journalists was a blow to media freedom.
“We urge authorities and law enforcement agents to respect the role and profession of journalists and to put in place measures that promote the enjoyment of the right to freedom of the press which is guaranteed under section 61 of the Constitution,” said Nyakunu.
“Further, MISA–Zimbabwe reiterates that citizens have a right to access information, including information relating to local governance issues, as a way of promoting accountability at local authority level. The right to access information is guaranteed in Section 62 of Zimbabwe’s Constitution”.
When NewZimbabwe.com contacted him Mutoti denied the allegations levelled against him.
He said: “What I know is that the demonstration was meant to challenge the reason why we had not accommodated residents in our offices when we held the full council meeting. The reason is that our gallery is very small and cannot accommodate a large number of people,” he said.
“In fact they were never barred from attending; there might have been a communication breakdown”.