Court acquits “Good Samaritan” journalist over anti-govt protest

By Court Reporter

The magistrates court on Friday 17 January 2020 acquitted Doubt Asima, a
freelance journalist, who had been on trial on charges of committing
public violence after he was arrested when he tried to rescue an
elderly woman, who had been assaulted by some Zimbabwe Republic Police
(ZRP) officers during an anti-government protest held in August last
year.

Asima, a 29 year-old freelance journalist had been on trial after he
was arrested on Friday 16 August 2019 and charged with participating
in a gathering with intent to promote public violence, breaches of
peace or bigotry as defined in section 37(1)(a) of the Criminal Law
(Codification and Reform) Act.

During trial before Harare Magistrate Richard Ramaboea, prosecutors
claimed that Asima and his co-accused Fabian Mushunga, aged 29 years,
forcibly disturbed the peace, security, or order of the public by
participating in a public demonstration held on Friday 16 August 2019
in Harare.

Prosecutors claimed that Asima and Mushunga, who were represented by
Jeremiah Bamu and Tinomuda Shoko of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights,
allegedly engaged in acts of public violence by barricading some
streets in central Harare with stones and boulders and also threw
stones at some police officers thereby disturbing the free movement of
members of the public and some vehicles.

In his defence, Asima argued that his arrest and prosecution stems
from malice and was a result of a desire by ZRP officers to conceal
evidence of their wanton assaults and brutality against innocent
citizens as one of them had approached and ordered him to stop taking
photographs.

The freelance journalist stated that as a journalist, he was acting in
the scope of his professional trade, gathering newsworthy photographs
and he took pictures of some ZRP officers assaulting civilians at
Africa Unity Square in Harare.

Asima said he noticed an elderly woman who had fallen down in the
resultant stampede and rendered her assistance before continuing with
his job. It was at this point that police officers approached him and
ordered him to delete the photographs he was taking.

However, when Asima refused to delete the photographs, he was
immediately arrested by ZRP officers and his protestations that he was
a photo-journalist accredited by Zimbabwe Media Commission was not
entertained by the law enforcement agents.

In his defence, Mushunga said he was arrested by ZRP officers when he
was on his way to his place of residence in Cranborne suburb after
collecting various mobile phone handsets from her relative in
Belvedere suburb for repair.

Mushunga said he had no knowledge of any demonstration scheduled for
Friday 16 August 2019 and was subjected to a stop and seizure by ZRP
officers who asked him to produce his national identity document,
which he did not have on person. Thereafter, Mushunga was asked to sit
down as he had no copy of his national identity document on person and
was bundled into a police truck with other persons whom he did not
know and taken to Harare Central Police Station, where he was
subsequently advised of his charge.

On Friday 17 January 2020, Magistrate Ramaboea acquitted Asima and
Mushunga after granting their application for discharge at the close
of the prosecution case, which had been lodged by their lawyers, who
had argued that their clients had not committed any offence and must
not be put to their defence.