Police have said they will comment “at the appropriate time” on their decision to bar journalists from marching in central Harare on World Press Freedom Day on Saturday.
Chief police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba yesterday said, “As of now I am not going to comment on that issue.”
Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo has criticised the police for barring journalists from marching saying the decision was “patently unconstitutional”.
Police had sanctioned the march, but their anti-riot colleagues dispersed dozens of journalists who had gathered for the annual commemorations.
In a letter to the event organisers — the Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations — the officer commanding Harare district, Chief Superintendent Newbert Saunyama, said the approval had been withdrawn due to “cropping up of other events of national interest and our police officers will be committed to such events”.
In a statement, Prof Moyo said the police had no justification for their decision.
“This year’s official commemoration was not only in line with Zimbabwe’s obligations as a State party to the United Nations, but also in recognition of and thus in accordance with Zimbabwe’s new Constitution which in Section 61(2), and for the first time in the constitutional history of our young democracy, specifically enshrines freedom of the media by providing that ‘every person is entitled to freedom includes protection of the confidentiality of journalists’ sources of information’.
“Against this background, and although it may please some vested political interests, the 11th hour cancellation of the commemoration of World Press Freedom Day by ZRP, without prior reference to the stakeholders involved, including the ministry and on the basis of opaque reasons, is very disappointing as it is manifestly neither in the public nor national interest not least because it is patently unconstitutional and without any transparent, rational or constructive justification.”
The Zimbabwe Union for Journalists also condemned the ban decision.