…As the country joins the world to commemorate International women’s under the theme “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”
By Shingirai Vambe
The Minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services, Monica mutsvangwa failed to respond to questions by both Journalists and legislators regarding Utterances by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s spokesperson, George Charamba against journalists in Zimbabwe.
Charamba conveyed warning shots using his micro-blogging twitter ghost account (Tinoedza Zvimwe1) to the Media in Zimbabwe focusing, reporting and analysing the Aljazeera documentary on alleged money laundering and gold smuggling happening in Zimbabwe and some parts of the continent.
The documentary has since been produced on the Aljazeera News Network Channel and social networks showing details of some countrymen involved in two criminal activities allegedly involving the President of the republic of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa and his family.
In a Tweet, one Tinoedza Zvimwe, said: “Friendly advise to all reckless journalists: Al Jazeera is not a court of law before whose claims impart privileges to defamatory utterances. It is merely some weaponised channel.
Chillingly said, will bring you food at the prison and you will spend time with one opposition political prisoner, Job Sikhala, who has spent almost 300 days in remand prison without trial.
“If you are reckless enough to repeat what its phoney documentary defamatorily says, hoping to plead: “I heard/saw it on Al Jazeera, you will be sorry for yourself. Do not for once think there is no grit to act against reckless, defamatory and politically motivated journalism. Faceless Twitter names egging you on will not be factor when brickbats come. Be warned!”
The same Tinoedza Zvimwe similarly and directly warned online publication, The NewsHawks. In other Tweets, such ‘reckless journalists’ were also threatened with imprisonment.
On the wrap up of the Women’s month commemorations at the Harare International Conference Centre, Mutsvangwa said she hasn’t seen the statement anywhere and would like to see it in writing and she would respond.
Dzivarasekwa member of Parliament, Edwin Mushoriwa rose on a point of national interest, asking the minister to come to parliament, to respond on the statement by Charamba he was however interjected by the ZANU PF Chief whip, Pupurai Togarepi before finishing his statement saying, The Presidential spokesperson is not in Parliament, so let us not talk about what we see on social media in this House.
“Thank you for giving me this opportunity to raise this matter of national importance. Hon. Speaker, the last few days, the Deputy Chief Secretary and Presidential spokesperson Mr. George Charamba issued a chilling threat to the media fraternity in respect to the exposé of the Aljazeera gold issues.
We want the relevant Minister to come before this august House and explain whether or not our own government is now no longer committed to the freedom of press. What has happened is actually a threat of the highest magnitude and that is why the Minister should come to this House and give us a statement,” said Mushoriwa.
Acting Speaker, Tatenda Mavetera responded and said, please may you pose your question to the Hon. Minister when she comes.
Senator Morgan Komichi on March 30, during Parliament session, asked the Minister to respond to the utterances.
“Thank you Hon. President, my question is directed to the Leader of the House. Hon. Minister, you are known as a person who has been vocal about media freedom. You have licensed a number of television and radio stations. The national Constitution speaks about media freedom but what disturbed me is a statement that was released by George Charamba, who intimidated media practitioners and as I am talking, journalists are not comfortable with the statement which says that he does not allow ‘news hawks’ to operate in this country. Does Government agree with that statement that was released by George Charamba?
Mutsvangwa however responded and said we cannot talk on what we see on social media.
“As the Hon. Minister for the Ministry, my job is to ensure that journalists do their job with freedom, reporting factual news and observing the laws of the country. As a Ministry, we oversee the Ministry, we are one country and we normally have stakeholders’ meetings. The question requires me to comment on a statement but I have not seen the comment that the Hon. Member is referring to. I do not believe that in this august Senate, we can’t talk about what we see on social media like the Tweeter and so on. The policy of the Ministry is to see that journalists have media freedom, express themselves and observe the law,” Mutsvangwa said.
Members of the ruling party who commented on condition of anonymity said the minister is playing smart.
“She has just just officiated another program in the capital, to do with women commemorations, the call is to close the digital gap, embrace technology and leaving no one and no place behind. it boggles the mind, how a whole minister of information, detach herself from social media and trends when communities, both rural and urban are upscaled to embrace and migrate to the digital world,” they said.
Harare North Legislator, Rusty Markham said this was a huge threat and would want to know what government meant by saying, “There is a limit to nonsense and provocation we can take,” made by Charamba.
Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ), Zimbabwe Online Content Creators (ZOCC), Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), individuals, legislators and the civic society have since issued statement on the fore of the plebiscite, where the media is expected to be impartial, ethical, fair and honest in its reportage.
Section 61 of the Constitution categorically states the freedom of expression and the media, which freedom includes protection of the confidentiality of journalists’ sources of information.
However, the details and information produced by Aljazeera has already linked local companies and individuals including the self proclaimed prophet Urbert Angel working with foreign nationals in illicit deals. in the video, he is seen making calls to Henrietta Rushwaya and in part 2 of the documentary, members of Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe and fidelity printers and refineries receiving dirty money and their children being paid school fees by criminal elements cited in the investigative documentary.
Legislators push for a forensic Audit of the linked state entities in the smuggling of national resources and money laundering.