27 July 2011

Zimbabwe: Fresh Jail Threats to Journalists Reporting On Cabinet

Photo: Sokwanele-Zimbabwe
File photo: Protests against political violence.

Journalists in Zimbabwe are concerned over a fresh warning that they face being jailed, if they report on issues discussed in cabinet.

It is understood that the government plans to use the Official Secrets Act to silence the media, as it forges ahead with its culture of keeping ordinary Zimbabweans in the dark.

Government ministers are said to be getting increasingly uncomfortable with media reports of their deliberations in parliament, especially over issues they disagree on. This month, Information Minister Webster Shamu reportedly summoned editors to a meeting, where he reminded them that journalists could be arrested if they reported on cabinet discussions.

The threat has been made before, but it's believed Shamu and his colleagues in parliament were provoked by a recent report by the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper that cabinet was deeply split over plans by Indigenisation and Youth Minister Saviour Kasukuwere to re-introduce the controversial national youth scheme.

On Tuesday veteran journalist Dumisani Muleya told SW Radio Africa that Shamu and the government have been seriously concerned about reports on cabinet proceedings, and that they have issued statements warning journalists from reporting on cabinet meetings, records and proceedings. But now it appears Shamu has given a final warning, Muleya said.

"There was a report that was carried out in our newspaper, the Zimbabwe Independent, about government or cabinet being divided over the issue of re-introducing the national youth service. ZANU PF was supporting it basically, but the MDC ministers were saying that they don't want that programme because they fear and suspect that ZANU PF wants to use that programme in order to support its election package ahead of elections," Muleya explained

He added: "We have a government that is determined by all means to protect information, to keep the people uninformed, so this puts us in a very tricky situation."

On Tuesday, Constantine Chimakure, editor of the Zimbabwe Independent said on social networking site Twitter: "By the way, the Zim Independent and other newspapers can no longer write on cabinet deliberations - journos would be jailed."

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