Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa sits with First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa in Harare on November 24, 2017. The first lady's staff recently blocked several journalists from covering her events. AFP/Tony Karumba)

Journalists barred from covering Zimbabwe’s first lady

Lusaka, May 2, 2023—Zimbabwe’s office of the presidency must ensure that all journalists can freely report on First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa’s public engagements, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.

On April 24, Mnangagwa’s security aides barred five journalists from covering her visit to the Museum of African Liberation in Harare, according to media reports, a statement by the Zimbabwean chapter of the regional press freedom group Media Institute of Southern Africa, and two of those journalists.

The following day, members of her security staff and Mnangagwa’s spokesperson blocked another journalist from photographing a separate event, according to media reports and that journalist.

Mnangagwa has previously barred journalists from covering her public events, as CPJ has documented. General elections are expected to be held in Zimbabwe in July or August.

“Zimbabwe’s presidency should ensure that all media can freely cover First Lady Auxilia Mnangagwa’s public events and avoid situations where only her official photographer will have access,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, in New York. “Zimbabweans have a right to access news and information about the president and his spouse, who are public figures.”

At the April 24 event, Mnangagwa’s staff denied access to reporter Problem Masau and photographer Shepherd Tozvireva, both with the privately owned newspaper NewsDay, as well as three unidentified journalists with the army-controlled broadcaster Nkululeko Rusununguko Television, according to those reports and Masau and Tozvireva, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.

NewsDay photographer Shepherd Tozvireva (left) and reporter Problem Masau. (Photo: Hilary Muradzikwa)

Masau told CPJ that the Institute of African Knowledge had invited Mnangagwa for a tour of the museum on April 24 and requested journalists from all the media houses to cover it, but then Mnangagwa’s staff asked the NewsDay and Nkululeko Rusununguko Television journalists to leave the scene.

At the event on April 25, held in the town of Beitbridge, south of Harare, a security officer told Newsday correspondent Rex Mpisa that the first lady’s official photographer and spokesperson John Manzongo requested that Mpisa not take photographs, Mpisa told CPJ via messaging app.

“I obliged. They said she has her own media team to cover her,” the journalist told CPJ.

CPJ repeatedly called Manzongo and sent questions via email and messaging app to Mnangagwa’s office for comment, but did not receive any replies.