Human rights lawyers group, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has condemned Presidential spokesperson George Charamba over his recent threats against journalists who reported on the Al Jazeera documentary exposing gold smuggling and money laundering.
Charamba chillingly warned journalists not to repeat and report what is contained in the documentary titled Gold Mafia, which according to Al Jazeera Investigative Unit, was recorded after the “infiltration of four gold smuggling gangs and reveals a giant money laundering and sanctions-evasion scheme in Southern Africa” and warned that some undisclosed “brickbats” would visit those who elect to do so.
In a statement, ZLHR said threats by Charamba were a desperate attempt to stop the publication and consumption of the documentary that revealed intricate details around the gold dealings involving influential people close to the executive.
“In what amounts to a bizarre act of extraordinary intimidation, one faceless social media enthusiast, who identifies himself as Tinoedzazvimwe1 on micro-blogging website, Twitter, blatantly threatened media practitioners and labelled them as “reckless journalists” simply for reporting on the contents of a
corruption-exposing documentary broadcast by Al Jazeera Investigative Unit and calling on those implicated to be held to account for their actions,” ZLHR said.
The rights advocacy group said gatekeeping antics by Charamba would not change people’s opinions or generate public support for corrupt activities happening in the gold sector, adding that government should not protect public figures from public scrutiny.
“Such gatekeepers need to understand that suppressing journalists will neither change people’s opinions nor generate public support for the commission of corrupt activities,” ZLHR added.
ZLHR urged the government to bring those responsible for the shameless attacks on media practitioners to justice and ensure that all journalists can do their jobs without fear of intimidation or reprisals.
The bullying of media practitioners comes at a time when Zimbabwe is already hogging the spotlight for all the wrong reasons after introducing retrogressive amendments to the Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill and introducing so-called patriotism provisions amendments in the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, which have the effect of curtailing and stifling the operations of non-governmental organisations.