WE condemn in the strongest terms possible, the arrest of The Sunday Mail editor Mabasa Sasa, investigations editor Brian Chitemba and reporter Tinashe Farawo for alleged publication of falsehoods over their lead story “Top cop fingered in poaching saga”. Being at a loss for words over the police’s strong-arm tactics, we defer to Abraham Maslow’s law of the instrument, which he explains as over-reliance on a familiar tool, and in this case, the handcuffs and the 6×8 foot cell.
- Editors, lobby groups slam journalists‘ arrest
- Another Zimpapers journalist arrested
- Editor, reporters arrested
- Journalists can’t be arrested, court told
- Top cop fingered in poaching saga
Said Maslow: “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.’’ While this statement sums up what the police did to The Sunday Mail trio, the handcuffs are not the only tool at the police’s disposal as they have a full Press and Public Relations unit whose duty is to interact with the media.
This should have made the police alive to other less dramatic forms of engagement like engaging The Sunday Mail editor and giving their own side of the story.
This is not to say the police were not given the chance to give their side of the story as their chief spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba is quoted in the offending story, but in her wisdom or lack of it, she did not share with The Sunday Mail what she purported to share with the nation in the self-serving Press statement she released yesterday.
We decided, as a matter of principle, to ignore that expedient statement in solidarity with our colleagues as it was akin to closing the stable doors after the horses have bolted.
What shocked us in the afterthought statement was the clear attempt to get our colleagues to reveal their sources, itself a cardinal sin in journalism which is why the new Constitution offers us protection of our sources.
To this end, we wonder if the police are aware that Section 61 (2) of the new Constitution offers journalists such protection. The section reads: ‘’Every person is entitled to freedom of the media, which freedom includes protection of the confidentiality of journalists’ sources of information.’’
So journalists, just like with lawyers and their clients, doctors and their patients, hold the confidentiality of sources sacrosanct.
Again, let the record show that the police were given an opportunity to speak in the offending story and they did, which leaves us wondering why they are behaving like they were not participants in the story, given that the story names other agencies like the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, which has not shown similar panic.
It is this overreaction that implies that The Sunday Mail story cut too close to the bone, that the police have something to hide. It is our hope that the police are not implying that they are above reproach.
We condemn the clear victimisation of our colleagues who have needlessly spent the past 48 hours in custody without being charged with the police running all over the place alleging publication of falsehoods.
This points to an apparent attempt to intimidate journalists from doing their jobs, a view compounded by the police’s deliberate decision to hold the trio without charging them until the mandatory 48 hours have lapsed.
This smacks of vindictiveness and pre-judicial punishment meant to cow journalists into submission. Such excitable actions serve no other purpose than to give our country a bad name, and create the impression of media under siege which in turn gives detractors ammunition to abet their nefarious, anti-Zimbabwe agenda.
We all want answers to the tragedy in Hwange National Park, which does not only have a far-reaching ecological impact, but serious implications on our tourism industry. We, however, do not believe the solutions can come from trying to intimidate the media from getting to the bottom of the story.
We hope police commissioner general Dr Augustine Chihuri is aware that the police and the media should be partners in fighting crime, the one helping the other and vice versa.