The Zimbabwe Republic Police working together with Harare Municipal police besieged 263Chat office at Batanai Gardens before firing three tear gas canisters inside the cubic office and locked the door from outside leaving 16 people to suffocate inside this afternoon.
Hell broke loose when reporter Lovejoy Mutingwiza was ordered to capture running battles between the two sets of police forces and the vendors in First Street in the capital
Realizing that a photojournalist was taking pictures, overzealous police details attacked Mutongwiza who ran straight to the office to seek refuge.
Upon arrival at 263Chat offices, the group of rowdy details led by a ZRP uniformed officers budged into the newsroom before demanding to see the journalist in question. Superiors in the newsroom had to intervene reminding the uniformed police officer that the journalist was indeed accredited and was only doing his duty for a registered media outlet.
Skirmishes ensued leading to one ZRP police officer releasing three tear gas canisters inside the office before closing the door from outside for the inmates to suffocate. Journalists had to escape through the window including five women with the other lady (name supplied) expecting. Unfortunately the expecting lady had to be rushed to the hospital unconscious.
Renowned constitutional lawyer Fadzai Mahere described the incident as disgusting charging that the responsible culprits be brought to book.
“The journalists have a constitutional right under Section 61(1)(a) to freedom of the media which includes the right to seek and communicate information and the public has a constitutional right to receive that information. The police must be brought to book,” Mahere wrote on her micro-blog Twitter today.
MISA Zimbabwe also condemned the attack on 263Chat journalist.
“Police officers and local municipality officers are expected to be the guardians of the law and not violate it by carrying out unwarranted searches and seizures. The police is reminded of its duty to uphold and promote the enjoyment of rights which include the rights to media freedom as guaranteed in the Constitution,” read part of the statement from MISA Zimbabwe.
Meanwhile, the government through the ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services said it has already initiated investigations on the matter.
“Government has been made aware of an incident in Harare CBD which involves allegations of mistreatment of members of the media made against the police. These allegations are now under investigation. Our constitution guarantees freedom of the media and government respects the constitution,” read part of the ministry’s statement.
A police report was made at Central Police Station.