Chiredzi- based freelance journalist Patrick Chitongo has been sentenced to a year’s imprisonment by Magistrate Tafadzwa Mhlanga for publishing an unregistered newspaper reports The Mirror of 26 June- 2 August 2015.
Chitongo was jointly charged with Tafadzwa Mhlanga, Givemore Kadzwida, and Courage Bandera. The four stood accused of collaborating to publish a newspaper that was not registered with the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC), with a view to selling it.
They proceeded to publish three issues of the unregistered newspaper titled, the Southern Mirror.
The State, led by Chiedza Muhwandavaka, argued that this was in contravention of section 72(1) the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) which states,
“No person shall carry on or operate a mass media service without a valid registration certificate…”
However, Chitongo’s co- accused persons were subsequently acquitted after it was established that they were students who did not play any role in the publication of the newspaper.
Chitongo who was represented by Martin Mureri of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights unsuccessfully argued that the published newspaper was just a dummy meant to be presented to the Zimbabwe Media Commission for the purposes of registration.
The state led evidence through Detective Sergeant Mureriwa of CID Chiredzi,Chiredzi District Information Officer Itai Dhliwayo and ZMC chief executive officer Dr Tafataona Mahoso who all told the court that the paper circulated in the streets without being registered.
Patrick Chitongo will serve an effective 8 months’ imprisonment following the suspension of four months of the sentence on condition that he does not commit a similar offence in the next 5 years.