Just recently I had another brush with the Zimbabwean police, as I was forced to spend the night in prison cells.
A question I have had to field a lot is how I was treated by the police, if I was tortured in an effort to reveal the source of the story etc. I won’t bore you with the details of my stay as a guest of the state, save to say, it was one hell of a long night.
I was excited to get bail, I knew I would, but I was still excited nonetheless.
But what stays with you after you have been arrested is what really worries me. In creeps in self-doubt and self-censorship and each time you edit or write a story, the question is not about its accuracy, fairness and correctness, but rather whether it will not land you in prison.
Each time you write, your efforts stop being about informing the readers, or educating them or whatever it is, but they become more about not offending the state, the police or whoever has the power.
After all the attention about the arrest leaves, you now have to deal with the psychological aspects of the detention and, believe me, this is worse than the night I spent in prison.
You begin to be a prisoner in your mind and you question yourself, ask whether journalism in Zimbabwe was the right career choice.
It is a very difficult place to be in.
You begin looking over your shoulder in public, you become afraid to leave the house on your own, because that is what stays with you after dealing with the police.
I am not saying anything untoward or sinister will happen to me, but these are thoughts that creep in and stay with you.
I love what I do and I am an advocate for free speech, and after my latest arrest, I was reminded of this quote by George Packer in the New Yorker, “the problem with free speech is that it’s hard, and self-censorship is the path of least resistance. But, once you learn to keep yourself from voicing unwelcome thoughts, you forget how to think them—how to think freely at all—and ideas perish at conception”.
Honestly, the path of less resistance, self-censorship is what I seem to have taken at the moment, no matter how much I abhor it.
I am not too sure for how long I will be in this state of mind, but there’s nothing I wish more than to be liberated from this mental prison.