Zimbabwean authorities should investigate the brutal assault of four journalists working for private media outlets, bring the perpetrators to justice, and ensure that party supporters do not attack members of the press covering political rallies, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.
The reporters assaulted are:
- Chelsea Mashayaombe, a reporter for online newspaper Zimbabwe Daily
- Pellagia Mpurwa, a reporter for online magazine Technomag
- Tongai Mwenje, managing editor of news website SportBrief
- Toneo Rutsito, editor of Technomag
Around 12:30 p.m. on August 25, the journalists were injured after they filmed a convoy of 20 vehicles of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party, according to news reports, a statement by the Zimbabwean chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), tweets by Rutsito and the Young Journalists Association of Zimbabwe, and Mwenje, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app. The vehicles were blockading a road ahead of a rally by Nelson Chamisa, the leader of the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) in the Chitekete business district in the town of Gokwe in central Midlands province.
About 10 ZANU-PF supporters, some of whom wore party regalia, punched and kicked the journalists all over their bodies and ordered them to delete their photos and videos, Mwenje told CPJ. The journalists complied and the supporters confiscated Rutsito’s two cellphones, camera, and car key.
“Zimbabwean authorities must investigate and hold those responsible to account for Thursday’s brutal assault of four journalists in Gokwe, and ensure that the press can report freely without fear of attack, especially with the country set to hold national elections next year,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ Africa program coordinator, in New York. “Impunity for crimes against journalists remains high in Zimbabwe, and it is time that authorities arrest and prosecute those who believe that it is open season on the press.
All the journalists sustained bruises and suffered subsequent body pain, Mwenje told CPJ, adding that during the assault he fell and knocked his head against the pavement, cutting his forehead. Rutsito broke a tooth and Mpurwa, who suffers from asthma, has a suspected leg fracture and had to be resuscitated after losing consciousness.
The journalists received medical treatment at a clinic in Chitekete, Mwenje told CPJ, and filed a complaint at Chitekete police station.
When asked for comment, Tafadzwa Mugwadi, ZANU-PF’s director of information, replied “rubbish,” and ignored further questions sent via WhatsApp. CPJ calls and text messages to Paul Nyathi, police spokesperson, and WhatsApp messages to Chris Mutsvangwa, ZANU-PF spokesperson, did not receive any replies.