ZLHR condemns bulling and censorship of joutnalists

ZIMBABWE Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) strongly condemns the brazen bullying of journalists in a desperate attempt to undermine efforts to hold influential and powerful people accountable for their alleged misdemeanours and unduly limit freedom of expression and ultimately curtail access to information.

In what amounts to a bizarre act of extraordinary intimidation, one
faceless social media enthusiast, who identifies himself as
Tinoedzazvimwe1 on the micro-blogging website, Twitter, blatantly
threatened media practitioners and labelled them as “reckless
journalists” simply for reporting on the contents of a
corruption-exposing documentary broadcast by Al Jazeera Investigative
Unit and calling on those implicated to be held to account for their

The social media enthusiast chillingly warned journalists not to
repeat and report what is contained in the documentary titled Gold
Mafia, which according to Al Jazeera Investigative Unit, was recorded
after the “infiltration of four gold smuggling gangs and reveals a
giant money laundering and sanctions-evasion scheme in Southern
Africa” and warned that some undisclosed “brickbats” would visit those
who elect to do so.

There is no excuse to bully, intimidate, threaten, censure and
endanger media practitioners. Such threats to journalists curtail
freedom of expression and freedom of the media, which is one of the
most fundamental rights guaranteed in section 61 of the Constitution
and also stifles access to information, which is enshrined in section
62 of the Constitution and all of which are vital to a functioning

ZLHR is convinced that this stifling of journalists by some
self-important gatekeepers, who are desperate to defend and please
some authorities, is a failed attempt to stop the publication and
consumption of perceived offensive media reports, which apparently
reflect the flow of corruption in Zimbabwe.

Such gatekeepers need to understand that suppressing journalists will
neither change people’s opinions nor generate public support for the
commission of corrupt activities.

It is no coincidence that the intimidation of journalists is being
done in the run-up to general elections.

Bullying of journalists not only puts the lives of journalists in
danger but also makes it difficult for journalists to do their work

This pattern of repression of journalists is not new in Zimbabwe, and
ZLHR has, over the years, documented numerous violations by senior
government employees and gatekeepers of the late Robert Mugabe and his
successor President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

ZLHR is appalled by the audacity with which journalists are being
attacked, and government should not protect authorities or public
figures from criticism. Still, it should instead promote space for
public debate and free expression in the face of shocking revelations
of corruption linked to the pillaging of the country’s natural

It is worrying to see the space for dissent and providing information
of public importance rapidly shrink in Zimbabwe, yet freedom of
expression is a cornerstone of democratic rights and freedoms.

Zimbabwean journalists have faced severe obstacles to executing their
professional work for several years, including threats, harassment,
intimidation, assault, arbitrary arrest, detention, prosecution and
abduction. It is time to dismantle continued impunity.

Zimbabwean authorities must bring those responsible for the shameless
attacks on media practitioners to justice and ensure that all
journalists can do their jobs without fear of intimidation or

ZLHR is concerned that this case of threats to the life and safety of
journalists could be facilitated by, and form part of, a broader
climate of intolerance towards free speech in Zimbabwe.

The bullying of media practitioners shows further proof of direct
attacks on the civic space in Zimbabwe. It comes at a time when
Zimbabwe is already hogging the spotlight for all the wrong reasons
after introducing retrogressive amendments to the Private Voluntary
Organisations Amendment Bill and introducing so-called patriotism
provisions amendments in the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform)
Act, which have the effect of curtailing and stifling the operations
of non-governmental organisations.

Although Zimbabwe was removed from the ‘Grey List’ by the Financial
Action Task Force in March 2022, the country risks severe consequences
if the government does not promptly and adequately address these money
laundering allegations. Especially given that such allegations arise
barely one year after Zimbabwe was removed from the ‘Grey List’ by the
global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog.

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