Zinbabwean police have been banned from reading independent newspapers
following growing anxiety from their seniors that they are behind
"leaks" to the press, writes Torby Muturikwa.

The ban came in a memorandum, from Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri, who also barred them from giving interviews to online publications reporting on the Zimbabwean situation.

The police chief accused junior police officers of getting "carried away" in an internal memorandum, and said their actions were an act of indiscipline.

Part of the internal memo reads: "With immediate effect, police officers should not be seen reading or carrying private newspapers while in uniform. Police station, district and provincial commanders should also make sure that members do not bring copies of the same to police stations. It has come to the attention of this office that most members get carried away with what they read in these newspapers, as evidenced by careless comments that have been made by some junior members."

Chihuri also gave sergeants sweeping powers to deal with those caught disobeying his orders.

"Police provincial press and liaison officers are also advised not to entertain any inquiries from private newspapers and internet publications. Failure to obey these directives will attract disciplinary action against the concerned members. This is to guard the organisation's image, which is being threatened by wayward officers," reads the memorandum.

This is not the first time that security agents have been banned from reading independent papers or those publications deemed to be against the government of President Robert Mugabe.

In 2002, when the currently banned Zimbabwean daily, The Daily News, was at the height of its popularity, several police officers caught reading the paper were "transferred" to remote areas as punishment.

At the time, the paper was confiscated in remote, communal areas by government officials.