By Tererai Karimakwenda
SW Radio Africa
30 May 2014
Journalists, media practitioners, students and representatives from government and civil society finally came together on Friday to take part in the World Press Freedom Day march, which was originally planned for May 3rd but was stopped at the last minute by riot police.
Foster Dongozi, secretary general of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ), said the “guest of honour” was Deputy Minister of Information Supa Mandiwanzira, who apologised for the actions of the riot police on May 3rd.
The deputy minister referred to the incident as a “miscommunication” and promised it would never happen again. But Dongozi strongly criticized the way riot police banned the first march without even offering a clear reason.
“We continue to condemn what happened. It was unacceptable. It was nonsense. There is no way police can bar professionals wanting to commemorate or celebrate their day. We took what government said was miscommunication, but that as it may was still unacceptable,” Dongozi told SW Radio Africa.
He added: “We cannot continue harping on about the past because there was a promise and a pledge that it would never again, that misguided decision to bar journalists from marching. Therefore we took it on their own word that debacle would never happen.”
ZUJ president Michael Chideme also addressed the crowd, touching on many issues affecting journalists and the media. They included the creation of a National Employment Council to assist in negotiating better salaries and housing, as well as legislative reforms that affect their safety while working.
Dongozi explained that one of the strongest messages that came across was that journalists need to take charge of their own profession and not “sublet it to other people” who then determine their conditions of service.
Information Minister Jonathan Moyo criticised the police after they interfered and barred the first march on May 3rd, describing the police action as “patently unconstitutional”.
But this seemingly democratic gesture was dismissed by some critics, with many reminding Moyo that he crafted the oppressive media legislation still being used by government to harass, intimidate and prosecute journalists.