Journalists ordered to delete footage of VP Mohadi's collapse at rally

HARARE (VOA) – Journalists in Zimbabwe were forced to delete photos and video of Second Vice President Kembo Mohadi collapsing at a campaign rally on Saturday, sparking outrage from media watchdogs and the journalists' union.

Zimbabwe VP Kembo Mohadi's collapse, journalists ordered to delete footage
Image: Associated Press

Mohadi was airlifted to an unknown destination for medical attention after he fell at the podium during a Zanu-PF rally in Gutu province, about a three-hour drive south of Harare.

Security agents and some Zanu-PF officials then rounded up journalists from private and state-owned media and ordered them to wipe out recordings of the incident, according to one journalist who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“We were asked to delete our footage,” the journalist said. 

“Some phones of some journalists were taken for further checks, especially from those from the private media. The phones were taken for 10 to 15 minutes.”

The journalist said the security officials also monitored the stories that the journalists were going to write and told them that there was no story about Mohadi's collapse.

“We have the right to our phones for privacy,” he said, “and also we have the right to inform the nation.”

Tabani Moyo, head of the Media Institute of Southern Africa, condemned the security officials' actions, saying, “A story of that nature is of national interest. For them to round up journalists and request them to delete footage of a situation of a public figure who has collapsed in front of a rally, I think it is unfortunate.”

Five days after the incident, there is still no official information on Mohadi's condition or whereabouts.

Jenfan Muswere, Zimbabwe’s minister of information, and Zanu-PF officials refused to comment on the incident when contacted by VOA.

Perfect Hlongwane, secretary general of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists, called the incident a “sad and unfortunate violation.”

“It is not just a violation of journalistic rights, but it is also a violation of the constitution itself,” Hlongwane said. 

“We want to call on government officials to say that they must actually be in the forefront to ensure that the constitution itself is upheld.”

Speaking at a rally against sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the United States and the European Union on Wednesday, First Vice President Constantino Chiwenga did not mention Mohadi's collapse but said Zimbabwe respects all human rights and freedoms.

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