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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

PRESS RELEASE ON THE NEED FOR THE MDC(TSVANGIRAI) TO RENOUNCE VIOLENCE:

THE ZIMBABWE JOURNALISTS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

19 November 2007

Press Statement: the MDC must denounce violence against the Media

THE Zimbabwe Journalists for Human Rights is shocked by the thuggish behaviour of youths aligned to the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) under Morgan Tsvangirai after they beat up freelancer Frank Chikowore and South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) reporter John Nyashanu at Harvest House while carrying out their journalistic mandate on Sunday 18 November 2007.

The overzealous youths accused the two journalists of negative reportage on Tsvangirai in respect of the ongoing disputes within the Women's Assembly.

The journalists were among a dozen others who were at Harvest House to cover Tsvangirai's meeting with his provincial executives to brief them on the ongoing talks with Zanu PF and the preparedness of the party ahead of the 2008 elections. It is ironic that during the meeting he reiterated his party's demands for access to the public media while demanding that the independent media must be allowed to operate.

It is alarming that a party that constantly denounce the ruling Zanu PF, the police, and other security apparatus of the Robert Mugabe regime for being violent with its opponents, the MDC has become an equal partner in attacking the freedoms of the media.

The ZJHR holds no brief for the MDC or Zanu PF but stands for the rights of journalists to discharge their mandate without fear or favour. An attack on any journalist carrying out his duties is an attack on the freedom of the press. That is unacceptable and we denounce the use of violence to settle differences in opinion.

The MDC President and his National Executive Council must discipline their youths and all other structures to respect the independence of journalists to write factual and truthful news without resorting to violence to coerce our members to write favourable articles. That is not our responsibility to create positives out of negatives.

Journalists, working for the State-controlled or private media should denounce whoever wants to coerce them to write favourable articles about certain issues.

As the nation prepares for the harmonised Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government Elections, the safety of the media is paramount.

Both Zanu PF and the MDC cannot be entrusted to guarantee the safety of the press. The ZJHR urges journalists to maintain their neutrality in cases of intra-party disputes as this trend creates unnecessary divisions within the media and the party concerned.

We therefore recommend that journalists take a principled stand against political violence and avoid risky political situations. The ZJHR will continue to lobby all stakeholders to seriously look into the issue of the security and safety of journalists ahead of the harmonised elections in 2008.
Options available for the media include;

Boycotting the MDC press briefings until the party makes a firm commitment to the security of journalists attending their functions.

Continue to play a watchdog role of all political parties without being silenced by acts of thuggery and intimidation.

Advocate and lobby Parliament for a policy framework that guarantees the safety of journalists covering the 2008 elections.

For more information and comments please write to thezjhr@yahoo.co.uk or call us on 0912 869 294, 0912 266 430.

The MDC Must Denounce Violence against the Media

Under pressure: Morgan Tsvangirai.

By Sebastian Nyamhangambiri

THE Zimbabwe Journalists for Human Rights yesterday said it was shocked by the "thuggish" behaviour of youths aligned to the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) under Morgan Tsvangirai after they beat up freelancer Frank Chikowore and South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) reporter John Nyashanu at Harvest House while carrying out their journalistic duties on Sunday.

The ZJHR said in a statement last night "the overzealous youths" accused the two journalists of reporting negatively on Tsvangirai in respect of the ongoing disputes within the Women's Assembly.

The journalists were among a dozen others who were at Harvest House to cover Tsvangirai's meeting with his provincial executives. The MDC's founding president whose party has been plagued by a number of problems with individuals within the party accusing him of being dictatorial, was briefing the executives on the ongoing talks with Zanu PF which are being held under the chairmanship of South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki.

Tsvangirai was also talking about his party's preparedness ahead of the 2008 elections.
The ZJHR, which has been joined by others such as the Association of Zimbabwe Journalists in the UK (AZJ-UK), in denouncing the violence perpetrated against the two journalists and the need for the MDC and all political parties in Zimbabwe to leave journalists to do their work with fear, favour, harassment or intimidation ahead of the crucial elections next year, is calling on journalists to boycott MDC press briefings until the party makes a firm commitment to the security of journalists attending their functions.

The journalists, the media group says, should continue to play a watchdog role of all political parties without being silenced by acts of thuggery and intimidation while watchdog groups will continue to advocate and lobby Parliament for a policy framework that guarantees the safety of journalists covering the 2008 elections

"It is ironic that during the meeting he reiterated his party's demands for access to the public media while demanding that the independent media must be allowed to operate," read the statement.

Tsvangirai even said his party was going to report to Mbeki that Zanu PF was upping the violence against its supporters but did not say a word about the journalists who had been attacked by the youths loyal to him.

AZJ-UK secretary, Sandra Nyaira, said: "An attack on one journalist is an attack on all. We should set aside our differences as Zimbabwean journalists and continue to campaign for our freedom wherever we are.
We all have one goal, to have a conducive media environment in which we can operate so whether you are Zanu PF, MDC, NDU, Zanu Ndonga or Zapu 2000, no one should be allowed to continue to harass or assault the already weary Zimbabwean journalist."

"It is alarming that a party that constantly denounces the ruling Zanu PF, the police, and other security apparatus of the Robert Mugabe regime for being violent with its opponents, the MDC has become an equal partner in attacking the freedoms of the media," the ZJHR said.

"The ZJHR holds no brief for the MDC or Zanu PF but stands for the rights of journalists to discharge their mandate without fear or favour. An attack on any journalist carrying out his duties is an attack on the freedom of the press. That is unacceptable and we denounce the use of violence to settle differences in opinion."

The MDC President and his National Executive Council, said the journalists, must discipline their youths and all other structures to respect the independence of journalists to write factual and truthful news without resorting to violence to coerce our members to write favourable articles.

"That is not our responsibility to create positives out of negatives.

Journalists, working for the State-controlled or private media should denounce whoever wants to coerce them to write favourable articles about certain issues."

As the nation prepares for the harmonised Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government Elections, the safety of the media is paramount.

Both Zanu PF and the MDC cannot be entrusted to guarantee the safety of the press. The ZJHR urges journalists to maintain their neutrality in cases of intra-party disputes as this trend creates unnecessary divisions within the media and the party concerned.

"We therefore recommend that journalists take a principled stand against political violence and avoid risky political situations. The ZJHR will continue to lobby all stakeholders to seriously look into the issue of the security and safety of journalists ahead of the harmonised elections in 2008."

Meanwhile the MDC has since vowed to launch an urgent probe into intra-party weekend violence which saw the two journalists being targeted.

The National Constitutional Assembly and Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition have today warned that the MDC had diminished its democratic credentials by using violence to resolve internal disputes.

NCA chairman Lovemore Madhuku was quoted as saying said Tsvangirai has made "so many mistakes that make him unfit to govern and to be President of this country".

The party's organising secretary, Elias Mudzuri, who disputes the violent youths are Tsvangirai's supporters claimed "hired" elements were behind Sunday's violence targetting supporters of Lucia Matibenga, the former head of the party's women's wing ousted in favour of one of Theresa Makone, the wife of Tsvangirai's advisor, Ian.

MDC launches probe into weekend clashes

UNDER FIRE: Tsvangirai
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
• Violent clashes at MDC headquarters
• Chamisa rants at media as pressure piles on Tsvangirai
• Tsvangirai fights for political future after NEC humiliation
• Lovemore Moyo: MDC standing committee 'empowered to fire Matibenga'
• Thokozani Khupe: Zim women bear brunt of national crisis
• Dr Alex T. Magaisa: Matibenga and power politics in the MDC
• Obert Madondo: Tsvangirai must go
• Tsvangirai calls crisis meeting over Matibenga
• Sekai Holland: Male chauvinism betrays MDC
• MDC edges closer to fresh split
• Grace Kwinjeh: Dongo and Matibenga - history repeating itself
• High Court orders MDC congress to determine Matibewnga's fate
• MDC accused of lying over cause of Tsvangirai aide's death
• Minister promised action on violence: MDC
• Tsvangirai 'breaking MDC constitution left, right and centre'
• Mohadi summons Tsvangirai over violence claims
• Sparks fly as UK MDC executive deposed
• Zimbabwe withdraws terror charges against MDC activists
• 'Disorderly conduct' charge for Tsvangirai
• MDC committed to Mbeki mediation - Chamisa
• Misihairabwi & Stevenson: Blame it on the woman!
• Paul Themba Nyathi: What is the role of 'The Zimbabwean' in fight for democracy?
• MDC says death threats made against MP
• Mutambara: Embracing legacy of Zimbabwe's heroes
• Last MDC activists held over bomb attacks freed
• Zim opposition needs leadership renewal -analysts
• 'We'll confront and decimate Mugabe, Tsvangirai'
• Mutambara: Tsvangirai 'weak and indecisive'
• Police faked evidence against alleged bombers
• Statement regarding MDC unity negotiations
• MDC says emigration hurts prospects
• Harare rally ban further extended
• 5 MDC petrol bomb suspects freed
• Mutambara gets passport, off to Europe
• Mutambara's passport seized ahead of London trip

• Courage Shumba: MDC losing moral and political authority to oppose By Torby Chimhashu

Last updated: 11/20/2007 02:48:24 A FACTION of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) on Monday vowed to launch an urgent probe into intra-party weekend violence which also targeted journalists.

The announcement came as two groups aligned with the party – the National Constitutional Assembly and Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition – warned the MDC had diminished its democratic credentials by using violence to resolve internal disputes.

NCA chairman Lovemore Madhuku said Morgan Tsvangirai, who leads a faction of the divided MDC, had made "so many mistakes that make him unfit to govern and to be President of this country".

Elias Mudzuri, the organising secretary of Tsvangirai's faction of the MDC, claimed "hired" elements were behind Sunday's violence which targeted supporters of Lucia Matibenga, the former head of the party's women's wing ousted in favour of one of Tsvangirai's allies, Theresa Makone.

Several people were reported injured when youths aligned to Tsvangirai attacked Matibenga's supporters who were marching to the Harvest House party HQ in Harare where Tsvangirai was meeting district and provincial officials.

Two journalists, Frank Chikowore and John Nyashanu, had to beat a hasty retreat. Chikowore, a freelance journalist, said the youths charged at him "menacingly", intent on preventing him from interviewing Matibenga. Nyashanu, a correspondent for the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), said he fled in his car when Tsvangirai's shock troops "charged at me like lions…I had to retreat to my car at the speed of lightning."

Mudzuri said: "I have heard that there was violence around Harvest House and I think our people, if they are ours, if they are our members…that must be condemned in its fullest form if anyone committed violence.

"The worst thing is we cannot accept violence especially against women or even men. Anyone who committed any form of violence is subject to disciplinary action and we will take disciplinary action on all our structural members."

Mudzuri appeared to reject accusations that Tsvangirai's supporters were behind the violence.
He said: "To me they are hired thugs. MDC is a general term; anyone who supports MDC becomes covered by that but when it comes to our membership if we are particularly saying so and so is so and so, then we investigate and deal with that."

The refusal to accept responsibility riled civic groups.

Pedzisai Ruhanya, the senior programs officer at the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition said: "The youths who are allegedly abusing people, who are allegedly doing all sorts of violence do that in the name of the president. They are saying those who are complaining about the procedural manner in which the Lucia Matibenga case was dealt with are disrespecting their leader Morgan Tsvangirai."

Ruhanya, a former reporter with the banned Daily News newspaper, said it was futile for the MDC to disown its own supporters.

He said: "It would be a lie to say these youths are not from the MDC.

These youths are members of the MDC, so there is no question about the identity of the youths who assaulted the women and the people who assaulted journalists.

"I think this incident demystifies the position that the MDC has always tried to put across that they are a democratic party because if they are a democratic party, they must understand the role of the media in a democratic country or in a democratic environment.

"The role of the media is not to be a lapdog of those who are in power or those who have power; like what the MDC is, the role of the media is to report accurately the way they see events unfolding not to report what the MDC leadership wants to hear."

Analysts have warned that the MDC could disintegrate further just a few months before synchronised presidential and parliamentary elections set for March 2008. The party already exists in two factions, with the other group led by former NASA rocket scientist Arthur Mutambara. The two groups share an almost equal number of MPs in parliament following the October 2005 split, partly blamed on violence by Tsvangirai's loyalists on officials who disagreed with him.

The NCA's Madhuku said the 2008 elections were Tsvangirai's last chance saloon.

"Tsvangirai would have failed as a leader (if he loses)," Madhuku said in an exclusive interview with New Zimbabwe.com. "The only honourable thing to do would be to step down and allow a new leader to take over at the MDC or risk losing credible people. If he refuses, surely he would have authored conflict."

"In any case, three quarters of his executive does not agree with him anymore"

LOVEMORE MADHUKU

Madhuku, a constitutional law expert, said it was unlikely there would be any political party entering the political arena between now and elections.

He said: "There won't be a new force or the third way. The MDC of Tsvangirai will go into the polls as it is – divided. I think Tsvangirai knows he would have failed the struggle if he refuses to step down. In any case, three quarters of his executive does not agree with him anymore."
The NCA chief said Tsvangirai had now become a "difficult candidate" to replace President Robert Mugabe following his blunders, the latest being the violence against party members opposed to his leadership style.

Said Madhuku: "If he can't respect his colleagues and members of the party, then there is no need for his people to have confidence in him.

"You have the MDC on one hand complaining to South African President Thabo Mbeki of violence against its members by Zanu PF. On the other hand, you have violence within the MDC perpetrated against the same members of the same party by thugs within the same movement.
"It's like taking two guns and you give one each to Tsvangirai and Mugabe and then decide to be killed by the one held by Tsvangirai, fully knowing that both are killers.

"Whichever gun fires at you, it will kill you. So violence is violence and it does not cease to be that because it is coming from the MDC. If you condemn violence in its strongest terms, then it must be stopped in totality."

Madhuku refused to accept that the current clashes in the MDC were a result of infiltration by the intelligence services, arguing that such activities have always been there in any political party.

"The intelligence works on what it finds. If it finds you have a weakness for money, they corrupt you. In the MDC they have found intolerance and people anxious to use violence. People can get away with being violent against each other," Madhuku said.

Report received by Rev Hove from friendsoflucia@gmail.com

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