NewsDay journalist Rex Mphisa and Zimpapers sales representative Charles Marerwa were arrested in Dulivhadzimu, in Zimbabwe’s southern border town of Beitbridge on 15 May 2020 and charged with contravening Coronavirus regulations.
Mphisa and Marerwa, spent the night in police cells. They were subsequently charged the next day, together with two other persons, with contravening Section 5 (1) as read with Section 4 of Statutory Instrument 83 of 2020 of the COVID-19 regulations.
The section prohibits the gathering of more than two people in a public place. They were also charged with contravening the Liquor Act which prohibits public drinking.
MISA Zimbabwe engaged lawyer, Jabulani Mzinyathi, who attended to the matter and represented the two when they appeared before the court on 16 May 2020. The two were released on free bail and are set to appear in court on 4 June 2020.
MISA Zimbabwe position
MISA Zimbabwe reiterates its long-standing position that journalists play a key role in promoting access to information hence there is a need for co-operation between different stakeholders to ensure that such rights are promoted, protected and respected.
In implementing the lockdown regulations, the police should take cognisance of the fact that journalists are providers of essential services, more so when they produce the relevant accreditation cards when on duty.
On the other hand, journalists should wear media jackets while on duty, to ensure they are easily distinguishable from the general public when executing their professional duties.