The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef), which was accused by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) of being fascist and biased in its reporting, has called for the release of Zimbabwean journalist cum political activist Hopewell Chin’ono and an end to the online abuse of female journalists.
The call comes after that country’s governing party Zanu-PF’s director of information and publicity, Tafadzwa Tuboy Mugwadi, directed “sexist and misogynistic vitriol” at SABC foreign editor Sophie Mokoena.
“Sanef has sadly noted the blatant sexist and misogynistic vitriol directed from Mugwadi to… Mokoena in a bid to intimidate, harass and stop her from doing her job of reporting on Zimbabwe and the continent,” the organisation said.
“Mugwadi seems to have taken it personally that Mokoena asked tough questions about the whereabouts of Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa amid the coronavirus crisis in the country.”
Sanef has advised Mugwadi and Zanu-PF to direct any complaints about Mokoena’s reporting to the SABC management and the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA).
Attacks on journalists ‘not new’
But the organisation said attacks on female journalists were not new.
“In September 2020, we expressed our serious concern about the vicious online and social media trolling of women journalists and media workers in Zimbabwe. At the time, we cautioned against the tweets by George Charamba, the press secretary in the Office of the President of Zimbabwe and permanent secretary in the Ministry of Information of Zimbabwe, who was behind the attacks on Mokoena and a colleague Peter Ndoro.
“We cautioned that Charamba’s actions – assisted by Nick Mangwana, secretary for information in Zimbabwe – were creating significant professional harm. We asked them to stop,” Sanef said.
Sanef has also called for an end to “the relentless intimidation and harassment” of Chin’ono, an award-winning freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker.
Chin’ono was arrested for the third time on Friday after tweeting about an incident in which a child died after allegedly being beaten by a police officer.
“Chin’ono was among many Zimbabweans who tweeted about the incident, demanding answers. In response, the police offered a different version of events in a statement,” Sanef said.
Chin’ono was arrested in July on charges of inciting violent anti-government protests, and again in November on charges of obstructing justice.
“Sanef believes that this hostile environment is a direct attack on freedom of expression,” the organisation said.
EFF once said Sanef was trying to shut down the EFF to campaign for the ruling party. Senior journalists, including SANEF members, have been linked to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s controversial #ThumaMina media WhatsApp group. The group received particular scorn from the EFF, which claimed it was evidence that certain journalists were part of a ‘cabal’ openly supporting the Ramaphosa faction.