By Sij Ncube
HARARE, November 4, 2015 – ZIMBABWEAN journalists Wednesday shrugged-off polarisation in the country’s media to throng court in support of four state journalists facing various charges, top among them allegedly peddling falsehoods.
On Monday police arrested The Sunday Mail editor Mabasa Sasa, Investigation editor Brian Chitemba, and reporter Tinashe Farawo after the paper published a story in which it fingered an unidentified top cop in the poaching of elephants at the massive Hwange National Park.
The courts later granted the three journalists $100 bail each after police charge the three with contravening Section 31 (a) (ii) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (Chapter 9:23) for allegedly publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the State.
The police claimed that the journalists published or communicated false statements with the intention or realising that there is a real risk or possibility of adversely affecting the defence or economic interests of Zimbabwe.
Police on Tuesday also arrested another state media journalist, The Herald Assistant News Editor Takunda Maodza for allegedly soliciting for a bribe from Harare businessman Isaac Levy, making him the fourth newsmen to be caged in less than 72 hours from the same stable.
Maodza appeared in court Wednesday facing corruption charges, in what ranked as the busiest day at the Magistrates Court for the state controlled Zimbabwe Newspapers (Zimpapers), as all four journalists appeared in the dock.
Scores of journalists, media lobbyists and activists turned up at the courts in solidarity with their state media colleagues as the world continued to roundly condemn President Robert Mugabe’s administration.
Media mogul, Trevor Ncube, former finance minister Simba Makoni and former information minister Professor Jonathan Moyo all twitted separately in solidarity with the arrested journalists as well as condemning the police for attempting to force them to reveal their sources.
But it was heartening to see scribes from both the private and state media coming to offer the state journalists moral support. Among citizens in attendance were opposition supporters.
However, it was equally disheartening to see the three Sunday Mail scribes being led to court in handcuffs and even wearing a jacket with Robert Mugabe’s Signature, could not save The Sunday Mail journalist Farawo who appeared dejected as mean-looking plainclothes police shepherded him to the court building.
In another rare show of solidarity, both the private and public media slatted the police for their high-handedness in their editorials Wednesday. An official statement released by police spokesperson Charity Charamba was largely ignored by all stables under Zimpapers as the editors took umbrage at the arbitrary arrest and incarceration of their colleagues.
In a hard-hitting editorial titled “Law of the Instrument archaic, Dr Chihuri”, referring to Abraham Maslow’s law of the instrument. In condemning the police the paper quoted Maslow as having said: I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer to treat everything as if it were a nail.
The paper charged that the police could have dealt with the matter different than proceeding to arrest the journalists.
“It is this overreaction that implies that The Sunday Mail story cut close to the bone, that the police have something to hide. It is our hope that the police are not implying that they are above reproach.”