Media groups petition Parly over cyber bullying

Presidential spokesperson George Charamba

MEDIA organisations have petitioned the Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda asking for Parliament to investigate cases of cyber bullying and threats against journalists.

In a joint letter to Mudenda, Zimbabwe Union of Journalists secretary-general Perfect Hlongwane, Zimbabwe National Editors’ Forum (Zinef) and the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ) said the threats on journalists instil fear and self-censorship among them.

They said this compromises citizens’ right to access to information as provided for by the Constitution.

“Journalists have been at the hand of attacks by one Tinoedza Zvimwe, whom the media has reported being a high-ranking government official, Mr George Charamba,” the petition partly read.

Charamba serves as Deputy Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, responsible for presidential communications.

“We are gravely concerned with the sustained attacks on media, whereby the (Twitter) account of Tinoedza Zvimwe has brazenly threatened with imprisonment of ‘reckless journalists’ who are said to be repeating  defamatory statements following the airing of the Al Jazeera documentary on alleged gold smuggling and money laundering in Zimbabwe.”

The petition said such dire threats have a chilling effect on freedom of expression and freedom of the media as statements that seek to silence journalists go against the reform trajectory that the government has been undertaking.

“This (reform trajectory) has seen the outlawing of criminal defamation and the adoption by Cabinet of the principle of co-regulation and acknowledgement of the existence of internal remedies to address grievances against the media.

“We fully acknowledge that freedom of expression is not absolute, and there are professional and legal parameters that the journalists and the media are bound by. Repeated threats against the media are retrogressive and unconstitutional,” the petition further read.

The petitioners want Parliament to use its powers and privileges to summon the alleged owner of the Twitter account Tinoedza Zvimwe to categorically pronounce himself on these threats against the media and reaffirm government commitment to promote and observe journalistic freedoms

They want Parliament to compel Tinoedza Zvimwe to withdraw his threats and exercise restraint in use of language.

“We speak strongly against harassment of journalists and put on record that such attacks on the media are unacceptable. There is need to carry out investigations into the threats against journalists and the media as the legislature deems necessary in the support of media freedoms and broadly human rights in Zimbabwe,” the petition added.

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