INFORMATION, Media and Broadcasting Services minister Jonathan Moyo yesterday hit out at police for blocking the commemoration of World Press Freedom Day in Harare.
The event organised by the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists in conjunction with Unesco and the Information, Media and Broadcasting Services ministry had initially been sanctioned by the police.
Moyo in a hard-hitting statement last night said the cancellation of the event by the police, who did not consult the ministry, was disappointing.
He said the cancellation was based on opaque reasons that were “manifestly neither in the public nor national interest”.
Moyo described the move, widely condemned by media groups, as “patently unconstitutional and without any transparent, rational or constructive justification”.
“It should be placed on record that the knee jerk propensity to always and everywhere use or show force for its own sake is not revolutionary by any stretch of the imagination,” he said. “In point of fact, that propensity can be quite reactionary and even subversive.
“The use or show of force should always and everywhere have a transparent and constitutionally and rationally justifiable purpose.
“Otherwise it should be said that the use or show of force does not inherently or by itself inspire any national confidence.”
Moyo said the commemorations were not only in line with Zimbabwe’s obligation as a member of the United Nations, but were also in recognition of the new Constitution that specifically enshrines freedom of the media.
“On the day when the national media is, along with its peers around the globe, commemorating World Press Freedom Day, it cannot be right that patently unconstitutional action is cynically used as an enforcement of law and order,” the minister charged.
“This much is known: Something is wrong somewhere.
“What is unkown is ‘the something that is wrong’ and the ‘somewhere’ of what is wrong. Perhaps only time will tell.”
He said the ministry would liaise with Unesco to reschedule the “unduly cancelled event”.
“While the letter of the kind of accountable public service that our nation deserves might be blurred by the cancelled event, the spirit of collective responsibility must forever remain as the beacon of nationally grounded media which claims its constitutional rights not for self-indulgent or other sinister purposes, but for the sake of our country’s prosperity,” Moyo added.
“What is important to understand by all stakeholders, especially ZRP, is that, with the advent of the new Constitution which came into full effect upon the inauguration of President Robert Mugabe on 22 August 2013, freedom of the media in Zimbabwe is now a constitutional matter and nobody has the right or option to ignore this fundamental reality or our national jurisprudence.”
He said the police must understand that serving the public is not a “one-way street, but a multiple lane avenue whose traverse requires those who are in public service to co-operate and indeed respect those whom they serve and vice versa”.