Information minister Jonathan Moyo on Friday said government would in future confiscate photographers’ cameras next time an unfortunate incident like the fall of the President happens.
Defending the heavy-handedness of the state security services who forced journalists to delete photographs of President Robert Mugabe’s fall at the Harare International Airport, Moyo said the way the media reacted to the fall would compel government to confiscate journalists’ tools of the trade.
He was addressing journalists at the Bulawayo Press Club Moyo on Friday when he hinted that government would also stop inviting journalists from the private media to cover government events.
Moyo was responding to a question on how government intends to regulate social media platforms in light of the leakage of Mugabe’s pictures. Moyo said they had learnt a lesson from the incident.
“These digital devices have built in facilities for things that are deleted to remain alive for at least 30 days. So next time, we have learnt that we should not delete, we should take the devices (sic),” said Moyo.
Moyo said it was normal the world over for security details to delete photographs that were deemed inappropriate.
“No one really who is experienced and normal will have any problems with security officials deleting footage or images they think are not okay. The Vatican does that, the police at the Vatican if you take pictures there they will delete.
“If you go to that sacred temple in Cambodia and you take pictures of yourself nude and so forth like some French people were doing a few weeks ago, the police come, they will delete. That is an appropriate reaction, if they don’t delete they deserve to be fired,” said Moyo.
The minister said the experiences which followed Mugabe’s fall had made them “wiser, more mature, more understanding and able to come to terms with the realities of modern technology”.
Moyo also warned the private media that they risked being banned from state functions if they continued abusing government’s benevolence of extending invitations to them.
“What is really significant about this incident is that in the past these people who rushed to upload those images on the internet would not have been invited to the function at the airport. We are inviting them these days, so they must not pretend that they are cleverer than us when we are the ones who are inviting them and we want to continue inviting them.
“If they become irresponsible and unrealistic in their behaviour we will remind them that is exactly the reason why we were not inviting you before,” warned Moyo.
The minister also charged that the local media was failing to report on issues truthfully.
“We have a media that believes the angle is the story, not the truth of the story. The truth is we have not bothered anyone about those images, instead we have asked you to compare those images with other similar incidences involving VIPs of that stature,” said Moyo.
He insisted that his boss did not fall but managed to “break the fall”.
Meanwhile, Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba has said the media have no business enquiring about the First Lady, Grace Mugabe’s reported illness or whereabouts.
The President’s spokesperson insisted the Zanu PF Women’s League boss was not a state actor and should be granted her privacy.
Grace Mugabe failed to return with her elderly husband two weeks ago when President Mugabe ended his six weeks long annual leave which took him and his family to the Far East.
Mugabe went on to tell his followers on his arrival the First Lady was still recuperating from an operation she undertook for an appendix complaint.
Sources close to the first family’s affairs have revealed her continued absence has not only delayed party business such as the disciplinary hearing of ousted Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa, but has also caused a delay to President Mugabe’s 91st birthday bash.
Asked over the First Lady’s welfare and continued absence, Charamba said the enquiry was tantamount to invading the first family’s privacy.
“Why do you want to know about the First Lady when the President or the husband is not asking me about the First Lady?” Charamba said when called by NewZimbabwe.com.
He was adamant Grace Mugabe was not a constitutional officer.
“She is not a civil servant; she is not a constitutional officer. Why do you pry into the life of a private citizen in the name of news?
“Don’t worry about her; there is one person you want to worry about, your first President. That’s the guy who makes laws for you, not the First Lady.”
Charamba added: “The First Lady’s title is not a status that would make her accountable to you and me; where have you seen enshrined in the Constitution that there shall be a First Lady whose availability shall be known to the media.
“She has absolutely no reason to account for her presence or absence zvamchose; hapatomborina at law or in actual practise”.