By Mugove Tafirenyika
Press freedom group Misa-Zimbabwe has condemned the assault of senior journalist with the NewsDay, Blessed Mhlanga by deputy minister of Finance and Member of Parliament (MP), Terrence Mukupe.
The assault took place on the evening of May 24 during a live broadcast of Focus, a current affairs programme aired on SFM, a local radio station. Mhlanga and Mukupe were in the studio to discuss a story published in the NewsDay on May 23.
In that story, the newspaper quoted the deputy minister as having said that members of the military would not recognise MDC Alliance presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa as president if he were to win the upcoming general elections.
This story was based on a video recording of the deputy minister speaking at a Zanu PF cell meeting held in Mandara, Harare earlier this week.
The heated discussion resulted in Mukupe allegedly verbally assaulting the NewsDay scribe and at the same time standing up in an attempt to assault him physically. At that point, Mhlanga’s wife who had accompanied her husband to the studio, began to record the unfolding events on her mobile phone.
This allegedly further angered the deputy minister who ordered his two aides to seize her cell phone; it was during this tussle that she was physically assaulted and her jacket torn.
Mhlanga proceeded to report the matter at Highlands Police Station and a docket numbered RRB 35337572 was opened. The deputy minister also filed a police report of assault against the couple.
Misa-Zimbabwe said the assault of journalists is of grave concern more so when this violence is instigated by public officials such as the deputy minister.
“Misa-Zimbabwe condemns the alleged assault with the contempt it deserves. These wanton assaults cannot be allowed to continue with impunity as they undermine the constitutional role of the media in entrenching democracy through performing its normative fourth estate role,” the press freedom group said in a statement.
“We implore the president, government and other State security agents to ensure the safety and security of journalists conducting their lawful professional duties.
“As Zimbabwe heads towards national elections, it is imperative for journalists to be able to carry out their work without fear of assault at the hands of public officials.
“Even during election season, media freedoms enshrined in Section 61(2) of the Constitution still stand. We have said it before and will repeat it now, journalism is not a crime.”