We have noted with great concern the continued attacks on journalism in Zimbabwe following the recent arrest of NewZimbabwe.com journalist Leopold Munhende.
Munhende, a member of the Zimbabwe Online Content Creator (ZOCC) was arrested on 28 November 2022 on an allegation of publishing falsehoods and subsequently charged for contravening Section 31 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
He was charged for a crime he didn’t commit. Even after the Zimbabwe Republic Police were informed that Munhende was not the author of the article in question and also not the editor of the online publication they insisted on charging him for the crime.
Munhende denied the allegations and questioned why the police arrested and charged him when he was neither the author of the article, editor nor publisher of NewZimbabwe.com.
He was released after about five hours of interrogation.
The media as the fourth estate plays a crucial role in educating, informing, and entertaining the public.
The role of the media is also to hold those in power to account and arresting journalists performing their duties, particularly on false allegations violates Sections 61 and 62 of the Constitution.
The two sections outline journalists’ rights to freedom of expression, freedom of the media, and the right of access to information.
Therefore, the state institutions and players must safeguard these sacrosanct constitutional provisions.
Journalists are not criminals.
We call upon the Zimbabwe Republic Police, a state institution to exercise its constitutional obligations with due diligence to avoid criminalizing journalism on false allegations.
The ZRP must be seen upholding, promoting, and developing freedom of the media not the other way around.
As the Zimbabwe Online Content Creators, our desire is to see our members working with all state players without fear of reprisal.
We strongly condemn the continued arrests, harassment, and violence against journalists. We stand in firm solidarity with Munhende during this difficult time of persecution on false allegations.
Journalism is not a crime.
Zimbabwe Online Content Creators (ZOCC)