The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the arrest and detention of Leopold Munhende, a student journalist with the Masvingo Mirror, by the Masvingo Police on Tuesday, 9 July 2013. Munhende was arrested while taking pictures of long queues of people trying to register as voters.
“The authorities in Zimbabwe should desist from any act of intimidation and harassment of journalists as this is a very crucial period in the nation’s political history,” said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa office.” “During this period it is the right of every citizen to seek and receive information as concerns their right to vote in the upcoming elections. Journalists should therefore be allowed to perform their duties without any form of hindrance as this helps in the monitoring of the election process.”
In a statement issued by the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ), the union’s Chairperson in Masvingo, Goerge Maponga confirmed that Munhende was picked up at 8:00 am but eventually released at about 5:00 pm after being detained for 9 hours.
The Secretary General of ZUJ, Foster Dongozi, condemned the police action and stressed that such behaviour was unacceptable. “This is another development which is unhelpful to our profession and indeed to our country. On Saturday we will have another meeting with the SADC Parliament and we will certainly update them on the issues of safety and security of journalists.”
The IFJ calls on the authorities in Zimbabwe to allow journalists to perform their duties during this critical election period based on the principles of public interest and the rights of the citizens to know. “The authorities must act to the maximum to guarantee the safety and security of journalists and the citizens in general. Anything short of this will be a huge failure on the side of these authorities,” added Baglo.