11 May 2014

Zimbabwe: Banned Demo - Govt,Scribes Plan New Date

GOVERNMENT, through its Information ministry, has invited media stakeholders to a meeting which is intended to agree on a new date for the holding of the abandoned World Press Freedom Day march.

Last week, police in Harare blocked journalists from marching through the capital's central business district as part of the celebrations, staged every May 3 the world over.

The journalists had prepared for the march when police made a surprise u-turn on an earlier decision to sanction the procession, eliciting an uncharacteristically strong rebuke from Information minister Jonathan Moyo.

The event had been organised under the scribes' trade union group, the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) and partner organisations; the Zimbabwe Association of Community Radio Stations (ZACRAS) and Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ).

Moyo, now so keen on minimising hostilities with the country's media, pledged to facilitate a new date for the abortive event.

An official with ZUJ told NewZimbabwe.com weekend that they have since received an invitation from Moyo and his ministry for a stakeholder meeting which is meant to reschedule the march.

"We are going to meet with the Ministry, UNESCO and other stakeholders and decide on a date which we would hold the celebrations," said the official who preferred to remain unnamed on professional reasons.

"This development has been necessitated by the professionalism which we did show on May 3 when the police cancelled our event."

He however did not disclose the date for the meeting with Moyo who had, days before, indicated was going to be "soon".

During the abandonment of the march, there were strong feelings the journalists should have simply proceeded with their march despite the police directives to the contrary, as this was an opportune moment to highlight the continued State violations on media freedom.

But the ZUJ official insisted journalists had an obligation to follow the country's laws which are administered by law enforcement agents.

"We are professionals and not activists, and that should continue. We had a number of citizens who on this day were not happy with the police's actions and wanted to carry on with the march, but journalists resisted and insisted that the event be abandoned. That is the spirit we want, because we are law abiding citizens not hooligans," he said.

Early this past week, Kembo Mohadi who heads the Home Affairs ministry, which is the parent ministry for the ZRP, made a public apology of the police ban on the march, and went on to give assurances the same "mistake" will not be experienced again.

While Mohadi chose to be diplomatic about the ban, his counterpart, Jonathan Moyo launched a strong condemnation of the police action, which he said was an unnecessary show of force by the country's law enforcement agents.


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