POLICE arbitrary arrests of journalists legally doing their work has spiked by 130% in the past 12 months as the State intensifies its suppression of freedom of expression and keeping the electronic media closed to private players, the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (Maz) has said.
The organisation revealed the statistics of a media under siege during a Press conference in the capital ahead of next week’s Media Freedom Day celebrated worldwide on May 3.
Maz said the statistics of journalists arrested and beaten or tortured at the hands of the police in the past year were compiled by the Media Institute of Southern Africa-Zimbabwe in their State of the Media Report 2016.
“There was an upsurge in media violations with at least 23 journalists unlawfully arrested or detained in the last year,” Maz said.
“The report notes that there were 12 journalists assaulted by either the police or by unruly political activists while professionally covering news events, translating to a shocking 130% and 71% increase in the number of journalists arrested and assaulted, respectively, while on duty.”
The organisation further stated it was concerned by government threats against the media and the switching-off of online social media during political disturbances.
“Maz is also concerned by the Zimbabwe government threats against media freedom, which poses a chilling effect on citizens’ right to free expression and access to information both offline and online as evidenced by stern measures such as the blackout on social media platforms such as Whatsapp on July 6, 2016 and the plans in motion to enact laws that will hinder online activity under the guise of preventing cybercrimes,” it said.
The media grouping urged the government to protect journalists and enact pro-media policies that will keep media organisations afloat in these turbulent economic times.
“We implore the government to create a safe working environment for the media and to provide leadership within and outside government in raising awareness on the need to ensure the safety of journalists and media workers,” Maz said. “We buttress the calls for the government to address the sustainability challenges within the media industry by reviewing the multiple tax regimes and to further facilitate for the viability of the media industry.”