Court rules against harassment of journos by police

THE High Court has granted Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Zimbabwe members leave to freely execute their mandate of disseminating information to the public as the country battles to contain COVID-19.

BY CHARLES LAITON

The ruling by Justice Jacob Manzunzu followed an urgent chamber application by Misa Zimbabwe and journalist Panashe Makufa, who approached the court seeking its intervention following several reports of harassment of journalists by members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and the military.

It was the ZRP’s contention that local journalists were using expired Press cards despite the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC)’s acknowledgment that 2020 Press cards had not been issued.

In its application, through lawyer Chris Mhike, Misa Zimbabwe cited Commissioner-General of Police, Godwin Matanga, Attorney-General’s Office and the ZMC as co-respondents after the law enforcement agents had insisted on thwarting journalists from carrying out their duties, claiming only journalists from the broadcasting sector and internet were allowed to operate during the lockdown period.

Initially, before the matter was taken to court, Matanga had conceded that the move by his junior officers was wrong, but later made a U-turn claiming his legal adviser, Attorney-General (AG) Prince Machaya had advised him that any other journalists from the print media were not exempted from the lockdown except those from the State media.

But Justice Manzunzu ruled in favour of the scribes saying: “Police officers and all other law enforcement agencies charged with the duty to implement the COVID-19 related lockdown are interdicted from arresting, detaining and/or interfering in any unnecessary way with the work of the second applicant (Panashe Makufa) and members of the first applicant (Misa Zimbabwe) purely on the basis that their Press cards issued in 2019 have expired.”

“The first and second respondents (Commissioner-General of Police and ZMC) be and are hereby ordered to ensure that the second respondent’s statement about the validity of the 2019 Press cards is communicated to all police stations in Zimbabwe as well as to appropriate commanding officers of any agents who might be assisting the ZRP in enforcing the law; within 12 hours after the handing down of this order.”

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