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VMCZ statement on police visit to the offices of the Zimbabwe Independent
Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe
August 11, 2011

The VMCZ expresses grave concern at the request to question the Editor of the Zimbabwe Independent, Mr. Chimakure and Senior Political Reporter, Wongai Zhangazha this week by the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP). The intentions of the police, as reported in the Zimbabwe Independent on 12 August 2011, is to ask the two journalists to 'assist with investigations' by revealing the sources of a story on the National Youth Service published in the same paper on July 8 2011. The visit to the offices of Alpha Media Holdings (AMH) , who are the publishers of the Zimbabwe Independent, by detectives from the CID Law and Order Section, can only be viewed as an act of intimidation of the media by the ZRP.

The premise of the visit, which was reportedly to seek to have the two journalists reveal their sources for the story in question is patently undemocratic and is against the spirit and letter of Section 20 of Zimbabwe' s Constitution, Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights as well as Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights all of which guarantee every Zimbabwean the right to receive and impart information. Further to this, the act by the police of seeking out sources of news stories from journalists undermines the basic tenet of freedom of information in a democratic society wherein it is expected that all 'whistleblowers' that leak information in the public interest should not face arrest. The story on the National Youth Service is in the public interest as it affects parents, guardians and all young people in Zimbabwe. The intentions of the CID Law and Order Section in seeking the sources of the stories from the two journalists are unfortunate and potentially sinister in intent.

It is a cardinal rule that journalists do not reveal their sources if the latter choose not to want to be known publicly. UNESCO and international media freedom organisations such as Article 19, the Media Institute of Southern Africa, through model Freedom of Information Acts and in the Windhoek Declaration on Promoting an Independent and Plurastic Media (1991) have recognised access to information as vital to the construction of democratic societies. This includes the protection of journalists from being forced to reveal their sources together with the protection of 'whistleblowers' of information that is in the public interest.

The VMCZ therefore calls upon the inclusive government, in particular the Ministries of Justice and Legal Affairs, Home Affairs and Media Information and Publicity to urgently review the Official Secrets Act, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act together with the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act and repeal sections in them that seek to criminalise the media profession, whistleblowing and the right freedom of expression as well as access to information.

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