Authorities continue to harass and intimidate journalists and activists
Zimbabwean authorities continue to harass and intimidate journalists and human rights activists through interrogations, arbitrary detention and threats of prosecution.
On 20th June 2017, Newsday editor, Wisdom Mdzungairi, and its chief reporter, Everson Mushava, were summoned by the CID Law and Order section of the Harare Central Police Station for questioning over an article they wrote on 21st February 2017 in which former Zanu PF Mashonaland Central provincial youth leader Godfrey Tsenengamu urged war veterans to petition President Robert Mugabe to step down. The police wanted a statement from the Newsday staff so that they would serve as witnesses against Tsenengamu.
Belinda Chinowawa from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, and Sifikile Thabete, who represented Mdzungairi and Mushava, stated that section 61(2) of the country's constitution protects journalists from disclosing their sources. In addition, it violates journalistic principles and ethics to use journalists as state witnesses. Mdzungairi and Mushava were released after two hours of interrogations.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) issued a statement of concern over the state's pressure on journalists and interference with their work:
"ZimRights condemns every and any attempts, such as this, by the authorities to censure the work of media houses and journalists in the country in violation of the freedom of the press and free expression".
On 22nd June 2017, two Zimbabwean journalists - Garikai Chaunza and Frank Chikowore - were arrested while reporting on the case of riot police evicting a white farmer on Lesbury Farm near Rusape. Chaunza and Chikowore were detained for several hours before being released without charge, but police deleted the journalists' photos of the incident.
Reports coming in on arrest of journos Garikai Chaunza & Frank Chikowore on farm 26 km west of Rusape. Legal team following up. @MAZ_Zim— misazimbabwe (@misazimbabwe) June 22, 2017
Ahead of World Press Freedom Day on 3rd May 2017, Secretary General of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalist Foster Dongozi declared that the number of journalists assaulted while covering events in the country increased to 71 percent compared to the previous year. In addition, Zimbabwe dropped four places on the 2017 World Press Freedom Index to rank at 128 out of 180 countries.
On Monday 26th June 2017, Pastor Evan Mawarire of the peaceful citizen's movement #ThisFlag, was arrested at a protest at the University of Zimbabwe, where he supported a protest of medical students against the recent hike in fees. As previously reported, Pastor Evan Mawarire was also arrested on 2nd February 2017 upon his return to Zimbabwe from the United States. He was released on bail on 8th February 2017, but continues to face legal harassment. The bail conditions are severe, as Pastor Mawarire had to surrender his passport and must report to the police every two weeks. Muleya Mwananyanda‚ Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa, stated:
"The release of Pastor Evan Mawarire on bail is not enough, the politically motivated charges against him must be completely withdrawn. The state cannot continue to harass and intimidate him simply for standing up for human rights".
His trial on charges of subverting a constitutionally-elected government is scheduled to begin on 25th September 2017.
Unidentified perpetrators broke into and damaged the house of #Tajamuka/Sesjikile activists, Dumisani and Munyaradzi Makwanya, in Harare on 22nd June 2017 at 2:00am. According to a press statement by ZimRights, there have been several similar incidents against activists involved in the #Tajamuka/Sesjikile social movement, which mobilises Zimbabweans to protest the worsening socio-economic conditions.