International Day - International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists 4 November 2022

International Day to End Impunity
for Crimes Against Journalists

[4 November 2022]

On November 2, the world celebrated the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.

From 2005–2018, the United Nations enforced over 10 resolutions that all speak to the safety of journalists – one of which established this day in order to urge member States to implement definite measures countering the present culture of impunity.

In its latest report “Threats that silence: trends in the safety of journalists…”, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) notes that at least 400 journalists were killed worldwide between 2016–2020. Of these 400, about 37 of the killings took place in Africa. These 37 are the known and reported cases, many more journalists have been silenced, tortured and killed in the shadows. According to the report, 87% of cases to do with harm against journalists in Africa, remain unresolved.

Impunity in Zimbabwe

Over the past few months, Zimbabwe has witnessed a prevailing culture of impunity and rising cases of harassment of media practitioners ahead of the 2023 general elections. Journalists in Zimbabwe have experienced a wide range of abuses including arrests, harassments, and assaults by both the state security agents and supporters of political parties in the course of doing their legitimate work. Most of the journalists attacked this year, were covering politics, corruption, security and justice, all of them subjects that in the current context are urgent and worthy of coverage. The likes of Blessed Mhlanga, Chengeto Chidi, Toneo Rutsito, Pellagia Mpurwa,  Godwin Mangudya, Moreblessing Nyoni and Desmond Chingarande were all victims this year. Sadly, most of the perpetrators have enjoyed apparent impunity from official follow-up – although in many cases the identity of the perpetrators is known and reports have been made to the appropriate authorities.

Attacks on journalists and media personnel are deliberate attempts to stop the free flow of information within our society. There are even reports of unwarranted surveillance of journalists. The attacks which often go unpunished are some of the greatest hindrances to freedom of expression. Silencing journalists deprives the public of the right to know. To know of corruption. To know of abuses of state power. To know of service provision. To just know.

To speak of impunity for crimes against journalism and not address the unique plight of female journalists would be an injustice. Female journalists face the constant threat of gender-based violence and harassment. On social media, female journalists routinely receive insulting and threatening messages from trolls and unnamed characters.

This year the country lost a champion and gender advocate in Abigail Gamanya. Gamanya dedicated her career to support young female journalists to get protection in the country’s hostile media environment. Abigail was well known for her active participation in the fight against sexual harassment in the newsroom, and her role in helping craft gender policies for various media organisations.

Zimbabwe Media Commission Statement

In its statement on the day this year  the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) highlighted the importance of free media as the nation prepares for the 2023 elections. The ZMC statement reminded the State and the public at large that journalists should not be debarred for not favourably reporting on a political party. The Commission went on to say that “it should be appreciated that pluralistic views make up a balance in the media forum”.  The full text of the Commission’s statement will be available on the Veritas website shortly.

Call To Action

As the country heads towards the 2023 elections, there will be an even more intense spotlight on the environment that journalists are operating under in Zimbabwe. This will be from both locals and the international community. The widespread acceptance of impunity for those who attack journalists in Zimbabwe and in the region is a major cause for concern.  If we aspire to stop the cycle of impunity, the first step is to understand that crimes against journalists are not solely committed against journalists, but also against their readers and listeners who are deprived of the truth. Ending impunity means bringing the truth back to our societies – and no process of justice can be complete without it.

As we commemorate the day, Veritas condemns all forms of attacks and violence against journalists as well as any other media workers.

Accordingly, Veritas calls on the government of Zimbabwe:

  1. To investigate and prosecute all crimes against journalists.
  2. To initiate concrete policies to protect journalists as they carry out their work.

To sensitize members of the police and other security services personnel on the importance of freedom of journalists.