Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights Calls for Action on Crimes Against Journalists

HARARE — On the occasion of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has called on the Zimbabwean government to take concrete measures to combat the prevailing culture of impunity for crimes committed against journalists and ensure a secure environment conducive for the independent and unfettered operation of media professionals.

According to Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, the significance of the day, observed annually on November 2nd, is to raise awareness and foster dialogue about the high levels of impunity for attacks on journalists globally. The Committee to Protect Journalists has reported a toll of at least 31 journalists and media workers killed since the onset of the war early in October 2023, with incidents of injury, detention, or disappearances also noted up to October 31st, highlighting the ongoing risks to journalists in conflict zones including Palestine, Israel, and along the Israel-Lebanon border.

The ZLHR underscored the pivotal function of journalists in conveying factual information for societal consumption and stressed that immunity for assailants impairs journalists’ capacity to disseminate crucial information, thereby dampening public awareness and inhibiting informed discourse.

Highlighting the pernicious effect of such impunity, the ZLHR emphasized that when offenders are not held to account, it erodes the public’s right to scrutinize those in power and impedes the free exchange of information.

The theme for this year’s observance, “Violence against journalists, the integrity of elections and the role of public leadership,” calls upon governments to protect journalists from violence, facilitate safe reporting conditions, and commit to prosecuting offenses against media personnel.

In Zimbabwe, the ZLHR expressed deep concern over the ongoing unaccountable actions by perpetrators against journalists, noting an uptick in assaults, wrongful arrests, and coercion to erase recorded material, particularly during election periods. This pattern of impunity, which thwarts justice and redress for victims, calls for urgent action.

The ZLHR has urged the Zimbabwean government to implement measures to reduce and eliminate impunity, make crimes against journalists punishable by law in Zimbabwe, and ensure a safe and enabling working environment. This includes adherence to the African Commission for Human and Peoples Rights’ August 2020 recommendations for the protection of journalists’ rights from arbitrary arrest and detention.

The advocacy by ZLHR is a call for governmental accountability and a reminder of the need to uphold the freedoms essential for a democratic society.