The IPI global network is alarmed by reports of online threats, harassment, and intimidation of journalists in Zimbabwe for reporting about an Al Jezeera documentary on alleged corruption in Zimbabwe’s gold mining sector. We urge authorities to investigate these attacks and to ensure that journalists can operate without fear of harassment and intimidation.
On March 23, Al Jazeera released a documentary titled ‘Gold Mafia: The Laundry Service’ which exposes alleged illicit gold trading, corruption, and money laundering in the country’s mining industry. Several journalists reported on and provided commentaries about the documentary.
Twitter user ‘Tinoedza Zvimwe’ (@Tinoedzazvimwe1), who is believed to be the Zimbabwean president’s spokesperson, George Charamba, has tweeted numerous threatening, harassing and intimidating comments at “reckless” journalists, and warning journalists against discussing the “defamatory” documentary.
Following these threats, journalist Hopewell Chin’ono highlighted that he was going to desist from reporting on the developments related to the documentary, for purposes of his own safety. Other journalists that were specifically targeted include Mduduzi Mathuthu, the editor of ZimLive and investigative news organization the Newshawks.
The Media Alliance of Zimbabwe issued a statement calling for anyone who has complaints about the media to use the country’s dispute mechanisms established through the Zimbabwe Media Commission and the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe.
These online attacks come amid an increasing number of press freedom violations and threats to journalists in Zimbabwe, according to IPI monitoring data, which is especially concerning as the country heads into a general election this summer.
“Journalists must be able to report and comment on matters of public concern without fear of harassment and threats”, IPI Director of Advocacy Amy Brouillette said. “As Zimbabwe is headed towards elections, it is critical that all public authorities in Zimbabwe demonstrate their support for democracy by ensuring an environment in which all journalists can operate freely and safely. Even critical opinions must be tolerated.”