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Crisis Report - Issue 219
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
September 10, 2013

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Media profession body moves to protect scribes

Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) Secretary General Foster Dongozi revealed in Harare on September 4 that his organisation plans to set up a fund and hire lawyers on retainer to protect its members in times of occupational danger after admitting that the work environment for reporters in the country was littered with security problems.

“On the issue of security for journalists particularly given the kind of environment that we are operating in we have since launched a safety fund which will be used to defend journalists in any form of problem whether be it legal or otherwise,” said Dongozi, speaking at the Annual Media Stake-holders’ Conference organized by the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ).

“And because we are a labour organisation we have also put a network of lawyers around the country.

“It’s a rapid response force of lawyers that is going to respond to any cases that warrant or need attention.”

Dongozi also revealed that the media profession body, seeing the gravity of the security issues had decided to carry out safety trainings for journalists, but added that the government was suspicious of the trainings.

“When IMS sponsored a training in Zambia, the next thing was that we were being accused of undergoing military training in a foreign land,” Dongozi said.

Dongozi also claimed that there was a lot of snooping activities by global governments on journalists on the pretext of security enforcement.

“With the internet fast becoming the major route of communication, authorities across the world have made snooping on journalists their top priority, Interception of Communications Act and so on.

“We have been seeing a lot of evidence that there has been quite a lot of snooping on our telephones and internet that goes on depending on the level of your prominence,” he said.

Dongozi said that there was little chance that professional journalism and the ethics of news reporting will be strictly adhered to in an environment where journalists felt threatened and news reporters were susceptible to corruption if they did not get adequate remuneration.

“At the International Federation of Journalists we say in an environment of fear and poverty, no professional or ethical journalism can be expected to thrive,” he said.

“In line with the working environment, the issue of sexual harassment is the big elephant in the room that we don’t want to talk about,” he said. “But the debates that we have held across the country have indicated that from university the female journalism students are abused in exchange for higher marks by lecturers.

“It does not end there, when they go to the news room they are abused and harassed by colleagues and senior people in the newsroom and also subjected to sex for in return for better recommendation, or something like that.”

Dongozi further claimed that the problem was not being perpetrated by lecturers and bosses alone but implicated news sources from different sectors of society as being part of the culprits in this abominable usage.

“And it gets even worse because even the news sources, very respectable men and women that we did not expect to do such things end up stalking them as well,” Dongozi said. “But obviously following our interventions the cases have reduced because we are talking about them and we are naming and shaming the culprits.

“So some people while you mention it, they will think that you are talking about them so they will quickly stop whatever they are doing which is a plus for us.”

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