ON International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) condemns some state actors for fuelling the culture of impunity targeted at journalists and calls upon government to take concrete action to hold accountable and bring to justice all perpetrators of crimes against journalists.
Commemorated every year on 2 November, International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists provides an opportunity for everyone to publicly condemn impunity for crimes against journalists and a chance to demand the prosecution of perpetrators of these crimes by governments.
According to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), over 1 200 journalists have been killed for reporting the news and bringing information to the public between 2006 and 2020 and in most of the cases the murderers go unpunished.
In Zimbabwe, journalists continue to operate under challenging circumstances with perpetrators of crimes against journalists not being held accountable and thereby depriving media practitioners of appropriate remedies.
In 2022, ZLHR continued to offer emergency legal support services to journalists who were arrested, detained and prosecuted while others had their tools of trade and other equipment confiscated including being assaulted while discharging their professional duties. Recently,
some of the journalists such as Chengeto Chidi and Blessed Mhlanga were found not guilty of criminal charges levelled against them.
The two have initiated the process of suing for monetary damages claims against the responsible police officers and the parent Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage. The cases of Mhlanga and Chidi are not isolated.
ZLHR condemns the malicious attempts by government representatives, who, during the 73rd Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) made futile attempts to scandalise and malign ZLHR and other regional and international organisations whom they labelled as rogue. Moreover, these government representatives peddled falsehoods before Commissioners of ACHPR that no journalists had been arrested, in Zimbabwe since November 2017 for doing their work.
It is quite shocking that the Civil Servants representing the government resorted to misinforming the continental premier human rights body in a desperate bid to escape censure.
This appalling conduct which emboldens perpetrators, confirms the contempt with which government treats journalists and fuels a culture of impunity and has a detrimental effect on the effective functioning of democracies, freedom of expression and access to information.
To end impunity for crimes against journalists, ZLHR calls upon government to;
• Promote a safe and enabling environment for journalists to discharge their professional duties;
• Investigate, prosecute all crimes against journalists and bring to justice perpetrators and ensure accountability and appropriate remedies to victims;
• Implement the recommendations made by ACHPR in August 2020 in the Resolution on the Human Rights Situation in the Republic of Zimbabwe -ACHPR/Res. 443 (LXVI) 2020, which called upon government to guarantee protection of the rights of journalists from arbitrary arrest and detention.