POLICE Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga yesterday said Statutory Instrument 83 (COVID-19 Regulations) does not classify the work of journalists as an essential service, except those from the broadcasting services and internet.
By Charles Laiton
Matanga made the claims in court where he was battling a challenge by the Media Institute of Southern Africa and journalist Panashe Makufa challenging police brutality on journalists during the 21-day national lockdown ordered by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to contain the spread of COVID-19.
The police boss was cited as the first respondent, with the Zimbabwe Media Commission cited as the second respondent.
In his response, Matanga said he had earlier on decided not to challenge the appeal after he was advised by the police Press and international relations department that the issue of arrests and detaining of journalists had been resolved.
But in a sudden about-turn, Matanga said he only decided to challenge the application, which he said was bad at law, after Attorney-General Prince Machaya advised him that journalists not from the broadcasting services and internet were not covered by the SI.
“However, my legal advisers, the Attorney-General’s Office, have advised me that the journalists are not exempted from the lockdown,” Matanga argued.
“Statutory Instrument 83 of 20 as read with SI 86 of 20 has not exempted the journalists from the lockdown orders.”
He added: “The journalists, who have been exempted, are those from broadcasting services and internet. It is clear that the first applicant is not from any of the exempted journalists. All other journalists remain bound by the lockdown and must remain indoors.”
The matter was heard by Justice Jacob Manzunzu. It was rolled over to Monday, according to Chris Mhike, the lawyer representing the media advocacy group.
“The parties have made their submissions. However, the matter will proceed on Monday. I am not at liberty to go deeper into what has been presented since the matter is pending,” Mhike said.
The country has recorded a number of cases of journalists harassed and abused by the law enforcement agents while conducting their job.