MEDIA rights groups have condemned the high-handedness displayed by President Robert Mugabe’s security staff who on Wednesday forced photographers to delete pictures of the 91 year-old leader tumbling from the stairs of a Harare International Airport podium.
Mugabe, fresh from a trip to an African Union summit in Ethiopia which saw his ascendancy to the AU chairmanship, had just finished addressing his followers who came in their hundreds to welcome him, when he stumbled and fell in full view of the local media.
“He addressed supporters who welcomed him … He missed a step as he walked down from the podium and immediately fell down,” said a witness.
Aides quickly helped him up and escorted him to his limousine which sped away, they said.
Photo-journalists who had taken pictures of the incident were immediately accosted by security details and forced them to delete the images.
In an interview with NewZimbabwe.com, Nhlanhla Ngwenya who is Media Institute of Southern Africa (Zimbabwe) condemned the interference into journalistic work by security personnel.
“It’s quite indicative of the wider policy framework of the Zimbabwean media,” Ngwenya said.
“They always expect the media to cover the pleasant; anything outside this is unpleasant, hence not newsworthy to them.
“It shows exposing the leadership in a negative light and instead of the daily propaganda that they feed to Zimbabweans can be quite dangerous for any journalist in Zimbabwe.
“It’s on record that coverage of the first family is a risky business in Zimbabwe. We have had a number of journalists who self-censor themselves when it comes to coverage of the first family precisely because they are afraid of the consequences as happened at the airport.”
Zimbabwe Union of Journalists secretary general Foster Dongozi also condemned the high handed reaction by Mugabe’s aides saying this was unacceptable.
“We find it very odd and totally unacceptable that journalists can be made to delete pictures or anything unless if it has a serious bearing on the security situation in the country,” Dongozi said.
“Certainly when it comes to news in the event such as the return of the President, Zimbabweans are entitled to know that their President is back that he is in good health and that he has had a successful meeting in Addis Ababa.”NewZimbabwe.com