Zim Police Target Journalists Ahead of World Press Freedom Day

Harare, April 28, 2014 –Police on Monday resumed their blitz on

journalists by charging two journalists with communicating falsehoods

after the publication of a story placing responsibility on the police

for the death of a minor.

NewsDay Editor Nevanji Madanhire, reporter, Moses Matenga and Sifikile

Thabete, the company secretary and legal representative of Alpha Media

Holdings, the publishers of NewsDay on Monday reported at Harare

Central Police Station, where the police interrogated them for close

to seven hours over the publication of a story headlined “Chihuri, you

are responsible”.

The publication of the story came after Neil Tanatswa Mutyora, died

last week after sustaining serious head injuries when he was knocked

down by a commuter omnibus driver, who was fleeing away from a

“menacing police officer” as law enforcement agents gave chase to the

driver.

The police led by Detective Inspector Chitambira charged Madanhire and

Matenga with contravening Section 31 (a) (1) of the Criminal Law

(Codification and Reform) Act and also profiled the journalists before

releasing them.

The police claimed that the journalists published or communicated

false statements prejudicial to the State with the intention to incite

or promote public disorder or public violence or endangering public

safety.

The journalists, who were represented by Tonderai Bhatasara of Mupanga

Bhatasara Attorneys and Dr Tarisai Mutangi of Donsa-Nkomo and Mutangi

Legal Practitioners, who are all members of Zimbabwe lawyers for Human

Rights were later released and advised that the police will summon

them once again if they intend to proceed to trial with the matter.

The detention and grilling of the journalists comes at a time when the

Ministry of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services is conducting

a campaign which it claims is aimed at reforming the media and

information industry and which entails identifying and repealing laws

that inhibit media freedom. Zimbabwean journalists are expected to

join the rest of the world in commemorating World Press Freedom Day on

Saturday.

Already, the Constitutional Court has declared as unconstitutional

some provisions of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.

In October 2013, the ConCourt ruled that Section 31 (a) (iii) of the

Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act is unconstitutional as it

contravenes the declaration of the fundamental right to freedom of

expression under Section 20 (1) of the Constitution.

The landmark judgment came after two Zimbabwe Independent journalists

petitioned the highest court in 2009 challenging the constitutionality

of some provisions of the law under which the State had relied upon in

prosecuting them.

Human rights organisations led by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights

have already condemned the police and the driver of the commuter

omnibus for acting as catalysts for the death of Tanatswa and are

working on taking legal action to hold them accountable for their

actions.