Zimbabwe has described as malicious reports that President Robert Mugabe dozed off while he was sharing a stage with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last week.
In a statement signed by Information Minister Christopher Mushowe, which warns journalists to avoid circulating what the government thinks is an attack on President Mugabe, the government says the president was nodding in response to Abe’s remarks and not falling asleep while standing on the podium.
The statement read in part, “President Mugabe was on his feet as Mr. Abe delivered his statement to the press. Watching the said video clip, even at close range, one could see the President nodding his head in response to the message being delivered by the Japanese Prime Minister. That is why we never bothered to try and dignify of the malicious innuendo that the President was dozing off with a rebuttal.
“Any sane person watching that video clip would dismiss the propaganda story with the contempt it deserves. We have been forced, as Government, to react today to this malicious video story, disgusted but one of our own local tabloids which saw it fit to attack the person of his Excellency the President in this cruel fashion by publishing the spiteful story which they themselves know to be blatantly false.”
Mushowe claimed that it was clear “to us that, whether it was April fool’s prank or unintended, either way, the motive was to injure and damage the reputation of our President in a big way, which is very shameful because it flies in the face of our national values and culture. We do not expect this kind of unprofessional behavior and willful misconduct from our journalists. This type of gutter journalism resides on the social media platforms and should not be allowed in the mainstream media.”
He said while government upholds freedom of expression and media freedom, “we strongly believe in the derogations that our Constitution prescribes in respect of the rights.”
Mushowe said Mr. Mugabe, like other Zimbabweans, is covered by some provisions of the Zimbabwe Constitution which state that freedom of expression and freedom of the media exclude incitement to violence; advocacy of hatred or hate speech; malicious injury to a person’s reputation or dignity; and malicious or unwarranted breach of a person’s right to privacy.
“While government remains committed to an agreed cordial working relationship with the media my ministry, as the arm of government responsible for both the sector and its spokesperson, would want to appeal and caution against continuous unwanted, disrespectful and unprofessional onslaught on the person of the Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defense Forces, His Excellency the President, Cde R.G. Mugabe.”