The Commission of Inquiry into the 1st of August 2018 post-election violence has come under a spotlight after the investigating team denied private media access to the public hearings opened today.
By Costa Nkomo and Jeoffrey Ncube
MDC and Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) described the move as unconstitutional.
MDC spokesperson Jacob Mafume expressed discontent on the barring of private media personnel from covering the public hearings saying it infringes on the freedom of expression and access to information.
“The barring of scribes from accessing the venue with the exception of the ZBC is unacceptable. It is against the principle of media diversity, it infringes freedom of expression but more importantly impedes the citizen’s access to information.
“Today, scores of journalists were denied access to the inquiry venue at a local hotel. The biggest conference room at the said hotel has no capacity to hold as low as fifty persons which creates problems for an inquiry of this magnitude,” he said.
MISA Zimbabwe lashed at the development as disconcerting.
The media freedom lobby group said the move to isolate private media promotes media polarisation, a common feature during the Robert Mugabe administration.
“This is disconcerting as it is an inquiry that is supposed to draw participation from the public. Particularly, worrying trend in such conduct by the institutions established by the government and public officials.
“It is therefore MISA Zimbabwe’s concern that this action by the commission perpetuates a very dangerous precedent where such attitudes may cascade down to other government structures, effectively heightening the levels of media polarisation,” reads part of the statement.
MISA further highlighted the constitutional provisions that guarantee freedom of expression and access to information which the commission has violated intentionally.
“It is the considered view of MISA Zimbabwe that the action by the commission runs against the grain of section 61 and 62 of the constitution of Zimbabwe that provides for freedom of expression and the media access to information respectively. In this regard the media should be accorded unfettered access to such developments as they happen so that the citizens can make informed decisions,” noted MISA.