The Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ) is gravely concerned with the ominous threats issued on social media platforms against “reckless journalists” that are said to be repeating defamatory statements following the airing of the Al Jazeera documentary on alleged gold smuggling and money laundering. The first instalment of the documentary titled: Gold Mafia: The Laundry Service, aired on Thursday, 23 March 2023.
In a Tweet, one Tinoedza Zvimwe, said: “Friendly advise to all reckless journalists: Al Jazeera is not a court of law before whose claims impart privileges to defamatory utterances. It is merely some weaponised channel.
“If you are reckless enough to repeat what its phoney documentary defamatorily says, hoping to plead: “I heard/saw it on Al Jazeera, you will be sorry for yourself. Do not for once think there is no grit to act against reckless, defamatory and politically motivated journalism. Faceless Twitter names egging you on will not be factor when brickbats come. Be warned!”
The same Tinoedza Zvimwe similarly and directly warned online publication, The NewsHawks. In other Tweets, such ‘reckless journalists’ were also threatened with imprisonment.
Such dire threats have a chilling effect on freedom of expression and freedom of the media.
The threats instill fear and self-censorship among journalists, thereby compromising the citizens’ right to access to information as provided for by our Constitution of which the media plays a critical role in the advancement and enjoyment of that right.
Statements that seek to silence journalists go against the reform trajectory that government has been undertaking, which has seen the outlawing of criminal defamation and adoption by Cabinet of the principle of co-regulation and acknowledgement of the existence of internal remedies to address grievances against the media.
It is on that basis that MAZ continues to urge the media to be professional in its conduct as required by the codes and ethics of the profession through accurate, fair and balanced reportage which does not harm the dignity and integrity of individuals.
The media in its professional conduct, should always be mindful that in terms of Section 86 of the Constitution (limitation of rights and freedoms), media freedom should be exercised reasonably and with due regard for the rights and freedoms of other persons.
MAZ emphasizes that any person aggrieved by the media should lodge their complaints with the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) or the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) for redress.
MAZ is a network of nine media professional associations and support organizations, united in defense of freedom of expression. Members of the network include the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ), the Zimbabwe National Editors Forum (ZINEF), the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA Zimbabwe), Enhancing Community Voices (ECV), Media Center, Gender and Media Connect (GMC), Media Monitors, the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) and the Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (ZACRAS).