The office of Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and the Zimbabwean Union of Journalists have fallen out over a statement Mr. Tsvangirai recently made saying that journalists working for state-controlled media outlets are "shallow."
The journalists union added Mr. Tsvangirai to a list of Zimbabwean politicians it accuses of using “intolerant language with potential to undermine or demean journalists”.
The union also criticized Mines Minister Obert Mpofu, who recently said reporter Chengetai Zvauya of the independent Daily News was a mouthpiece for “imperialists” in writing an article critical of Mpofu's handling of the Marange diamond field.
Tsvangirai spokesman Luke Tamborinyoka said the journalists union has over-reacted, adding that Mr. Tsvangirai has been on the receiving end of vituperative coverage by the state-controlled media for many years. He said Mr. Tsvangirai supports a free press.
Mr. Tsvangirai "has largely remained quiet in the wake of vicious and defamatory attacks," Tamborinyoka said. "He respects the public media, but the same media also have a responsibility to respect him and the public office that he holds."
Tamborinyoka said he has contacted the union to discuss the issue and to challenge it on why it has not urged state media to end personal attacks on Mr. Tsvangirai.
ZUJ Secretary General Foster Dongozi, while acknowledging the need for all newsrooms in the country to be more professional, said Mr. Tsvangirai should not seek to right one wrong by committing another, especially when the country is so polarized.
Dongozi told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira that the union has been encouraging and sponsoring training programs to root out bad media practices and hate speech.
But he said shortcomings of the media do not give politicians the right to attack and demean journalists in the way he maintained Mr. Tsvangirai and Mpofu had done.
Media Monitoring Project Coordinator Andrew Moyse said that while Mr. Tsvangirai is entitled to his opinion, his Movement for Democratic Change has not shown itself able to co-exist with a free and at times critical media, but should quickly learn to do so.