ZIMBABWE: Police, media agree on actions to secure a safe environment for media operations
The Zimbabwe Republic Police and representatives of media organisations led by MISA Zimbabwe Trustee Cris Chinaka met in Harare on 20 December 2017, and have agreed on a raft of actions to secure a safe and conducive working environment for journalists.
The police delegation was led by Police Spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba.
In attendance during the meeting brokered by MISA Zimbabwe as a follow –up to the one held in September 2016, were Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ), Secretary General Foster Dongozi, Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ), Co-ordinator Nigel Nyamutumbu, MISA Zimbabwe Programmes Co-ordinator Nyasha Nyakunu and freelance journalist, Godwin Mangudya.
The proposed resolutions and action plans are also aimed at improving the professional working relationship between the media and the police through agreed work plans and time-frames for ease of monitoring of progress.
Senior Assistant Commissioner Charamba, said on their part, the police would be guided by the resolutions of the meeting towards ensuring pledges committed to come to fruition. She said the meeting marks a “new note” in shaping professional relations and the way forward between the two parties.
She said the new era as stated by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, would see a change of approach in the way the police conducts its business right down to the last person on the ground.
Chinaka stressed the need for continued dialogue to improve relations and ensuring the media also appreciates and understands the role of the police in a modern state. “We do pledge to continue working with you and finding solutions in areas where there are difficulties,” he said.
The September 2016 meeting came on the backdrop of assaults of journalists during the course of their duties, confiscation of cameras and deletion of video clips by the police thereby souring relations between the two parties.
It was also noted then, that journalists should be professional in their conduct and report the good work of the police as opposed to writing negative things only.
Below are the resolutions of the 20 December 2017 meeting:
- The Police and the media agreed to improve and strengthen relations through quarterly meetings and continuous engagement and that the first of such meetings is scheduled for March 2018.
- It was agreed that a safe working environment be created for journalists through training of police officers on the role of journalists.
- Any form of assault on journalists during the lawful performance of their duties should be reported and dealt with by the police as enshrined in their mandate (detecting, investigating and preventing crime) and the outcome of report communicated.
- It was also agreed that journalists approach and introduce themselves to ground commanders whenever there are public disorder situations and in cases where they are aggrieved.
- Where police has concerns with the media, they should engage professional bodies such as MISA, ZUJ or VMCZ to encourage professionalism and accountability.
- The media to encourage members of the public who approach them with stories of a criminal nature to report to the police at their earliest convenience, so that investigations can be done.
- The media pledged that it is committed to ensure fair, accurate and balanced reporting and to correct inaccurate stories sincerely and without prejudice.
- ZUJ, Media Alliance of Zimbabwe and MISA must convene meetings with the Zimbabwe National Editors Forum and media houses on the need to assign specialised reporters to cover the crime beat.
- On the issue of addressing police officers by their proper ranks, the Police undertook to provide media houses with the correct rank structures during interactions with media houses and journalism students.
- The Police to conduct outreach programmes and conduct lectures/meetings with media houses, training institutions and newsrooms to sensitise them on police operations.
- To conduct a tour of media houses and customer care outreach programmes where the media is invited.
- The meeting also resolved that the media and the police should avoid the use and communication of hate language and that hate language should be reported to relevant professional bodies and authorities.
MISA is a regional non-governmental organisation with members in 11 of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) countries. Officially launched in September 1992, MISA focuses primarily on the need to promote free, independent and pluralistic media, as envisaged in the 1991 Windhoek Declaration.