Police detain two Byo journalists, force them to delete footage

Two Bulawayo based journalists were Saturday detained by the police while covering the MDC Alliance’s 22nd-anniversary commemorations held in Bulawayo.

The two journalists  – CITE reporter Lulu Brenda Harris and freelancer Pamenus Tuso were forced to delete photos and videos, which they had taken during the aborted event.

The security services besieged the anniversary celebrations just before MDC Alliance leader, Nelson Chamisa was about to deliver his main address.

Clad in civilian attire, state security agents swooped in on the journalists who were capturing the proceedings including the ‘commotion.’

“Why are you taking photos of us? Who are you? Please remain where you are standing. We want your details,” demanded the security agents, one of them identified himself as a police officer.

The journalists introduced themselves and presented the officers with their valid Zimbabwe Media Commission accreditation press cards.

However, the officers demanded the journalists’ Sony camera and phone to go through the footage, claiming the event was illegal and had not been cleared.

MDC Alliance Provincial Spokesperson, Swithern Chirowodza said their anniversary was not open to the public.

“That is why it was held in a far-from-town, secluded and private place. In compliance with Covid-19 regulations, the MDC Alliance restricted attendance to its provincial executive members, national executive members and a few journalists. State security details, one of whom boasted being a member of the military, had no right whatsoever to act in the manner they did,” he said.

After going through the images, one of the officers took the camera to the man leading the operation, who ‘boasted’ he was a “military person” and threatened to seize the journalists’ equipment if they refused to delete their footage.

“I am a military man and I do not care who you are. Delete all the photos which you have taken,” he said before someone said, “these are civilians.”  

Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) national chairperson of the Zimbabwe Chapter, Golden Maunganidze condemned the journalist’s detention.

“As MISA, we call upon authorities to respect and protect accredited journalists who are doing their work within the confines of the laws of the country.  Surely taking photos at a public meeting cannot be a criminal offence. Section 62 of our Constitution guarantees press freedom and access to information,” he said.

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