Journalists call for safety and security during elections

Media practitioners are calling for safety and security measures to protect them as they cover the upcoming 2023 harmonised elections. 

These remarks came out during a Twitter space held by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), Thursday, addressing the nexus between effective electoral democracy and media in Zimbabwe. 

Speaking during the space, Rutendo Mawere, a multi-Media Journalist and Communications for Development Specialist at ZESN emphasised on the need to have safety and security mechanisms in place to safeguard media practitioners during elections.  

“Most journalists are concerned about their safety. Even so many years after independence, and many years after committing to ensuring a free press we still have threats against journalists. Reports that have been done by various media organizations show that these threats on their own make journalists not able to carry out their duties freely because of the fear factor,” she said. 

“We are family people we hope that this year we will have a different election period where people will not be arrested in line of duty. For some journalists, it means that their lives are under threat and they would not be certain that they would actually cover the entirety of the elections without getting arrested.”  

Secretary-General for Zimbabwe Union for Journalists (ZUJ), Perfect Hlongwane, reiterated that it is important for media organisations to have dialogue with state security on measures on how to work together on the ground. 

Hlongwane also noted that it is important for media practitioners to be supplied with press jackets that will make them identifiable when they are covering election stories on the ground. 

“We do know that ZMC has been providing these jackets but the challenge is sometimes they are not properly distributed. Only established media organisations end up getting them leaving the rest without. Can the Commission come up with ways of fairly distributing the jackets to the intended recipients.” 

Addressing the raised concerns, the Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC), Prof Ruby Magosvongwe, said the Commission was in the process of engaging various stakeholders to ensure that there is co-existence and peaceful coverage of the elections. 

Prof Magosvongwe also highlighted that the Commission has put in place measures to ensure that there will be fair distribution of the press jackets in time ahead of the elections. 

“You seem to be preempting the issue of journalists being victims of violence. It is unfortunate that when we come to platforms like this one we already have preconceived ideas or perceptions that have no basis. To the best of our knowledge as ZMC we have not received any imperial evidence concerning victimisation of journalists during this period before we get to the electoral period,” she said.  

“We need to focus on peaceful coexistence not to preempt that there is going to be violence and we are going to be attacked yet we are still in the process of trying to create dialogue around the challenges perceived or real because at the end of the day what we perceive and drive is a peaceful Zimbabwean environment so that everyone gets protection from the law without any discrimination”.

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