Zimbabwean media practitioners are demanding safety and security measures to be put in place to protect them during the upcoming 2023 harmonized elections. During a Twitter space organized by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) on Thursday, media professionals expressed concerns about their safety while covering the polls.
Rutendo Mawere, a Communications for Development Specialist, emphasized the need for safety mechanisms to safeguard journalists during the elections. “Most journalists are concerned about their safety,” she said.
“Even so many years after independence, and many years after committing to ensuring a free press, we still have threats against journalists. These threats make journalists unable to carry out their duties freely because of the fear factor.”
Secretary-General for Zimbabwe Union for Journalists (ZUJ), Perfect Hlongwane, also emphasized the importance of having a dialogue between media organizations and state security to ensure effective collaboration. He also suggested that media practitioners should be given press jackets to identify them while covering election stories on the ground.
The Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC), Prof Ruby Magosvongwe, addressed the concerns raised during the Twitter space, stating that the commission was engaging with various stakeholders to ensure a peaceful coverage of the elections.
She also assured journalists that the commission had put measures in place to ensure the fair distribution of press jackets ahead of the polls.
However, Prof Magosvongwe noted that it was unfortunate to preempt the issue of journalists being victims of violence during the election period. “We need to focus on peaceful coexistence not to preempt that there is going to be violence and we are going to be attacked,” she said.
“We are still in the process of trying to create a dialogue around the challenges perceived or real because, at the end of the day, what we perceive and drive is a peaceful Zimbabwean environment so that everyone gets protection from the law without any discrimination.”
With elections fast approaching, Zimbabwean journalists are urging the government to prioritize their safety and security to ensure effective coverage of the polls.