By SIBONGINKOSI MAPHOSA
JOURNALISTS in Bulawayo on Sunday recalled the events of January 14 to 16 in which the government disconnected the internet, crippling their operations during nationwide shutdown protests over fuel hikes.
The scribes made the remarks as they belatedly celebrated the World Press Freedom Day.
This year’s celebrations ran under the theme Access to information and communication fostering freedom of expression, safety of journalists, press freedom on all platforms.
The celebrations in Bulawayo saw journalists from different media houses come together at a private venue to share their experiences.
The event was graced by outspoken Ntabazinduna chief Nhlanhlayamangwe Felix Ndiweni, who was the guest of honour.
Topping the discussions were the events of January 14 to 16 protests in which the government shutdown the internet as a measure to put down the protests by irked Zimbabweans.
A senior journalist and veteran broadcaster based in Bulawayo, Tapfuma Machakaire, condemned the jamming of internet during the protests.
“The State will justify interfering with internet in the name of protecting the public, protecting lives and property, but to what extent is that justified legally in terms of your rights?” Machakaire asked.
“I saw the banner stating section 61 and 62 of the Constitution, which captures ‘press freedom and access to information’, whereas in the same vein, the same State is arguing that it is protecting you from yourselves, or against yourselves because of abuse of social media.” Machakaire also he said: “Social media has become a threat to authorities to the extent that they shut the internet. By shutting the internet, they shut formal media; not only the media, they also close business.”
During the shutdown, journalists resorted to international applications such as VPN and Telegram to access the internet.
Addressing the journalists, Chief Ndiweni said the scribes, in the instance of such State interference, must engage the international community to expose the violations of their professional rights.