On December 18, 2022, political activists and security personnel affiliated with the Movement for Democratic Change, a Zimbabwean opposition party, threatened a group of journalists covering the party’s meeting in Harare, the capital, according to news reports, a report by the Zimbabwean chapter of the regional press freedom group Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), and four of the journalists, who spoke with CPJ via messaging app.
At about 11 a.m., journalists were interviewing some of the delegates before the congress when a group of MDC supporters assaulted a party member who had allegedly criticized the event, according to the MISA statement and Chengeto Chidi, a reporter with the local outlet Heart and Soul TV, who was at the scene.
When journalists from Heart and Soul, the Open Parly ZW news website, and the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster VOA Studio 7 attempted to record the incident, MDC security staff and party activists threatened them, VOA Studio 7 journalist Mlondolozi Ndlovu told CPJ.
Party members in charge of running security for the event told the journalists to stop filming, and threatened to beat them and seize their equipment, Ndlovu told CPJ.
“They said to us, ‘We thought you are with us. Stop taking pictures, go back inside the venue, otherwise we will beat you up,’” Ndlovu said.
One security officer accused the journalists of inciting the scuffle, and another threatened to confiscate Chidi’s phone, he told CPJ.
Heart and Soul reporter Ruvimbo Nyikadzino told CPJ that security staff also obstructed journalists from interviewing delegates who were entering the congress venue.
Heart and Soul News Editor Blessed Mhlanga went to help the journalists before MDC spokesperson Witness Dube arrived at the scene and cautioned party supporters against threatening members of the press, Mhlanga and Ndlovu told CPJ. Mhlanga said the journalists continued covering the event after Dube’s intervention
Dube told CPJ via messaging app that his party believed in media freedom “to the letter and spirit,” and said the MDC would always facilitate safe coverage of its events.