A recently released state of human rights report has criticized government for its reluctance to respect civil liberties especially those relating to freedom of association, assembly and expression of the media.
According to the State of Human Rights Report Zimbabwe for 2017 released by Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, there was an increased repression and silencing of journalists with some being assaulted in their line of duty.
“There was increased repression and silencing of journalists, they were assaulted during the scope of their employment. State media remained captured by ZANU-PF which manipulated it for its own benefits,” noted the report.
The report noted that the 2017 figures of journalists who were harassed by state agents might be higher than documented as there are reports that Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) staffers were allegedly assaulted on the 15th and 16th of November during the military coup.
Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum Senior Researcher, Dzikamai Bere confirmed the increased reports of repression and silencing of journalists adding that it was also worsened by the creation of the Ministry of Cyber Security.
“The first level of the violation of the right to freedom of the media is that there were no media reforms necessary to align the law with the constitution, freedom of assembly and association was curtailed mainly using the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and continued to affect the work of journalists,
“The second level was the creation of the Ministry of Cyber Security and the Presidential Spokesperson George Charamba appraised the nation that the new ministry was aimed at protecting the nation from cyber threats posed by the abuse of social media, but this was suppressing internet freedom,
“To see that the arrests of journalists were a violation of their rights, most of them were released with no charges after being arrested,” said Bere.
The introduction of the ministry saw the arrest of an American journalist Martha O’ Donovan, she was arrested on the 2nd of November on charges of abuse of social media for retweeting a tweet insulting the former President Robert Mugabe.
Meanwhile, a recent by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) revealed that Mugabe’s departure has seen Zimbabwe jump two places up (from 128 to 126th) in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index.
Under Mugabe, local journalists operated in a repressive environment that resulted in countless arrests of media practitioners deemed critical of government.