Zimbabwean journalists report being attacked, threatened

At least two journalists reported being attacked, threatened, and obstructed in January 2014 in Zimbabwe, while a third was summoned to court a year after being charged, according to news reports.

Godfrey Mutimba, correspondent for the independent Daily News newspaper, said he was attacked on January 22, 2014, in Masvingo, the capital town of southeastern Masvingo province, while reporting on a meeting hosted by the U.S. embassy. He said assailants hit him with their fists, tore his jacket, and threatened him, saying they knew he wrote “propaganda for Western imperialists” and “negative things” about the ruling party. The journalist said that police in plainclothes who were at the meeting ignored the attack and that he did not report the assault to officials.

Mutimba was taking pictures on his cellphone of youths from the ruling ZANU-PF party when he was attacked. The youths were criticizing the continued imposition of U.S. sanctions against Zimbabwe and were angry that U.S. President Barack Obama had not invited President Robert Mugabe to attend the U.S.-Africa summit in August 2014, according to news reports.

Foster Dongozi, secretary-general of the Zimbabwean Union of Journalists, told CPJ that there was a continued need to advocate for the safety of journalists.

CPJ’s efforts to reach a spokesman of the ZANU-PF were unsuccessful.

In an unrelated case, a journalist was threatened on the streets of Gwanda town on January 13, 2014, according to news reports. Albert Ncube, a correspondent for Southern Eye newspaper, said he had been threatened by a local official after he published articles alleging that the official had been offered a council house for purchase at a reduced price by the Gwanda town council, according to news reports.

In another unrelated case, Zenzele Ndebele, editor of Radio Dialogue in the city of Bulawayo, was summoned to appear in court on March 6, 2014, after being charged with contravening the Broadcasting Services Act for possessing a radio receiver without a radio listener’s license. If convicted, Ndebele would be liable for the cost of the license fee plus a $20 fine.

The summons came amid a recent statement by George Charamba, permanent secretary for Information, Media and Broadcasting Services, who said the $30 license fee for owning a radio should be scrapped, according to news reports.

In 2013, police had confiscated 186 solar-powered, hand-crank radios and detained Ndebele on accusations of smuggling radio receivers into the country. The charges of smuggling were later dropped.