FORMER Industry Minister Welshman Ncube’s MDC party has fingered President Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu PF party as being behind the slew of arrests of journalists in the past few days.
In a statement Wednesday, the MDC said Mugabe and his lieutenants have in the past few weeks “threatened the media hence the arrests”.
“The MDC condemns the continued assault on the media in an endeavour to suppress the freedom of the press by the state apparatus,” the opposition party said.
The statement is a reaction to the recent arrests of state media journalists Mabasa Sasa, Brian Chitemba and Tinashe Farawo “for exposing the police’s involvement in the poaching of wildlife at the Hwange National Park”.
“(These) are shameful acts of cowardice and a blatant violation of the national constitution as well as International human rights charters which Zimbabwe is a signatory to.
“These arrests come on the heels of chilling threats to journalists by President Mugabe, his wife Grace and permanent secretary for Media, Information and publicity George Charamba for exposing ugly factional fights within Zanu PF and we are therefore persuaded that the order for the degrading violent arrests came from the higher echelons of Zanu PF,” the statement added.
The MDC said the arrests are designed to intimidate the journalists and “cover up for these serious crimes which we know will suck in senior Zanu PF officials who have been involved in criminal activities and plundering proceeds from the country’s wildlife for years while getting state protection”.
The opposition party called on Mugabe to allow “justice (to) take its course” adding “we call for the full and thorough investigation of the police’s involvement in the poaching of wildlife at Hwange National Park”.
“The culture of intimidating journalists each time they expose corruption within the regime must be stopped forthwith. The MDC believes the honour of the journalism profession is seriously under threat in the country when it should be preserved,” the party said.
Sasa, Chitemba and Farawo have since appeared in court on charges of publishing falsehoods and granted $100 bail each. They will reappear in court again on November 27.
Meanwhile, The Herald assistant news editor Takunda Maodza who was also arrested for allegedly soliciting a bribe was also granted $50 bail.
Mugabe and some senior officials in his administration as well as his wife, First Lady Grace have in the past few months complained over what they called “sensational media reporting and publication of falsehoods”.
Mugabe’s spokesperson Charamba promised “the hammer would fall on the media”.