HomeOpinion & AnalysisMugabe media threats misplaced

Mugabe media threats misplaced

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The attack on NewsDay and its sister publication The Standard by President Robert Mugabe last Friday, where he labelled them opposition media desperately working to destroy Zanu PF are misplaced, unwarranted and an attempt to instil fear on the stable’s fearless journalists.

NewsDay Comment

Mugabe’s attempts to gag the private press are not only surprising but unfortunate especially with the restrictive laws that still exist in this country. It is perplexing what Mugabe would want to achieve with all these restrictions, coming immediately after his wife First Lady Grace and hardly two weeks after Information secretary George Charamba threatened to muzzle the Press for exposing government’s profligacy.

Robert---Mugabe

The private press is extremely worried that these rants against independent journalists are going beyond limitations. Mugabe’s attack on the independent press has raised serious questions about journalists becoming soft targets for politicians and dictators.

What’s worrying is that Mugabe has endorsed the attack on the private press by some of his party’s hoodlums. In the circumstances, in the case of free, fair and ethical journalism, the atmosphere for independent journalists remains dangerous in the country.

Thus, it is clear that freedom of the press and speech is increasingly under pressure, particularly when reporting against both Mugabe’s Zanu PF and Morgan Tsvangirai’s opposition MDC-T.

Regrettably, these attacks on journalists are happening more frequently and with increasing force. These are not individual cases. It appears there is a plan to censor the local private media.

These attacks on independent journalists must be condemned unequivocally and unambiguously to safeguard freedom of the press.

Interestingly, Mugabe’s outbursts showed that the President is himself tired of reading ‘lies’ fed to him by the public media and has to make do with reading the private press. No doubt by attacking the private press, Mugabe and Grace are shadow-boxing their imaginary enemies unaware that the reality has finally dawned. The President should just accept that his advanced age and failing health are fast calling for a substitution, something in the public domain where no media is required to ascertain, fuelling tension within Zanu PF.

We urge Mugabe to deal with internal conflict in Zanu PF and stop shooting the messenger, in this case the private press. Sadly, government business has been neglected as a result of the endless succession fights in Zanu PF. It must be understood that Mugabe constitutionally vowed loyalty to all Zimbabweans while Grace vowed to Mugabe alone. The private press has a constitutional right to ask why she was meddling in government business.

It appears Mugabe is reading Dictator’s Handbook: A Practical Manual for the Aspiring Tyrant by Randall Wood and Carmine DeLuca which states that an expert media offensive can pave way for one’s political ascension.

What has happened to Mugabe’s selflessness? We find solace in that Mugabe confirmed that NewsDay and The Standard always write correct issues of the goings-on in Zanu PF.

We will therefore leave no stone unturned in ensuring that we publish the truth as it happens in the factitious Zanu PF and expose its misdeeds; endemic graft and misrule that have become its hallmark.

But Mugabe’s intolerance against the private press’ unfavourable reporting poses a lethal threat to independent journalists.

At a time when efforts are being made to foster independent and professional journalism, Mugabe, Grace and Charamba’s attack on journalists must be stopped.

It is disconcerting that the private press continue to receive warnings and threats. If such actions persist, we are worried that the door to independent journalism in our faltering democracy might be closed.

We demand that the authorities do not view independent journalists as participants in the Zanu PF conflict. To the contrary, we are on the side of the truth, our profession and our audience.

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