The IPI global network expressed alarm after Zimbabwean investigative outlet NewsHawks said it was forced to stop covering an alleged corruption scandal in the army due to threats and pressure against its journalists. We call on authorities in Zimbabwe to uphold media freedom and ensure journalists can do their work without threats to their safety or fear of harassment.

NewsHawks said it had stopped the publication of follow-up stories on a housing corruption scandal involving the equivalent of nearly 200,000 euros in the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) “to protect the safety and wellbeing of reporters”.

The news outlet said it was informed that its story had caused a storm in the military, which issued a statement accusing NewsHawks and other media outlets of attempts to “peddle falsehoods about the army and individuals taking advantage of the alleged corruption”. 

NewsHawks added that security forces were investigating the journalists who covered the story, saying, “the bottom line is the military wants to know the sources of the story”. It said journalists, including news editor Owen Gagare, had been placed under surveillance.

This is not the first time that the military has targeted NewsHawks journalists. Benard Mpofu is also reported to have gone into hiding in August 2021, following his reporting on the emergency landing of a helicopter with President Emmerson Mnangagwa on board. 

“IPI stands in solidarity with the NewsHawks journalists and calls on authorities to ensure their safety”, IPI Africa Programme Officer Edzodzi Ahiadou said. “Zimbabwe must uphold its constitution, which provides for media freedom and the confidentiality of sources. Investigative journalism is critical for accountable, transparent governance and for the reinforcement of the rule of law in the management of public resources. Journalists carrying out this watchdog role should not face intimidation, harassment, or threats.”

The incident reflects a worrying trend in Southern Africa in which military authorities have threatened journalists who expose military-related corruption and undermined media freedom under the guise of promoting security. Recently, Malawian journalist Gregory Gondwe was forced to go into hiding following threats by the Malawi Defence Forces after he published an investigative story alleging corruption in the supply of military equipment.