More than 50 journalists are facing arrest for “undergoing military training” in Zambia to topple the Zimbabwean government. CIO and CID operatives have informally quizzed several journalists, urging them to ‘come out in the open’ about their participation in military and surveillance training. These frivolous charges are reminiscent of those brought against human rights activist, Jestina Mukoko, and some MDC members accused of recruiting people for military training in Botswana.
“I was accosted by a stranger outside my house when I was going to work recently. He asked why journalists had been receiving military training in Zambia. I said I was not aware of any journalists who were receiving military training. He was very intimidating. He said he was aware that I had received military training and he asked me to clear myself by writing a report on who organised the training. I am now afraid for my life,” the journalist said.
Survival skills misunderstood
However, The Zimbabwean can reveal that far from receiving military training, a group of journalists received basic training in covering conflict-sensitive areas. The workshops were held in Mutare and Lusaka, Zambia in March 2009. The training was provided by the International News Safety Institute (INSI) whose mandate is to provide journalists throughout the world with survival skills while on assignment.
Subjects covered included basic safety training including home and office security, surveillance awareness, controlling bleeding and burns, covering riots, treating broken bones and the prevention of infectious diseases. All participants received first aid medical kits including water treatment and anti-diarrhoeal tablets.
Another journalist told The Zimbabwean that he had received a threat from a female detective at the Law and Order Section of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP).
“The officer who is known to me said she had seen my name on a list of journalists who had undergone military training in Zambia. She said investigations were still ongoing and warned me that it would be in my interest to make a true report of what subjects we covered during the military training. I told her that all we had done were basic survival skills while on assignment and I pointed out to her that safety was very important to journalists because of the nature of their job.”