Zimbabwe Independent newspaper journalists arrested

By Violet Gonda
11 May 2009

Despite the fact that a few days ago it was world press freedom day, journalists continue to be harassed and arrested in Zimbabwe, just for doing their job. On Monday two journalists from the private media were arrested for publishing a story containing the names of police officers and state agents implicated in the abductions of civic leader Jestina Mukoko, journalist Shadreck Manyere and others.

Trevor Ncube, the owner of the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper, confirmed the detention in a message posted on his Facebook site. He said: “Zimbabwe Independent Editor Vincent Kahiya and news editor Constantine Chimakure will be spending the night in the cells.”

The two had spent the whole day at the police station on Monday, following a visit by officials from the Law and Order Section on Saturday to the Zimbabwe Independent offices, looking for them. The police said they wanted to arrest Kahiya and Chimakure for publishing a story naming police officers and members of the Central Intelligence Organisation, involved in the abductions of human rights and MDC activists. The activists, who were abducted and tortured between the months of October and December last year, had named in court the officers who brutalised them.

But the Zimbabwe Independent journalists were arrested despite the fact that the information was gathered from public documents, contained in court papers. The names of some of the police officers were revealed, following the formal notices of indictment for trial of the activists this past week. The Independent wrote: “They (the court papers) also revealed that the activists were in the custody of state spies, though the police professed ignorance of their whereabouts until late December when they issued a press statement saying the abductees were in their custody facing banditry charges.”

“A perusal of the notices revealed that Assistant Director External in
the CIO retired Brigadier Asher Walter Tapfumanei, police superintendents
Reggies Chitekwe and Joel Tenderere, detective inspectors Elliot Muchada and Joshua Muzanango, officer commanding CID Homicide Crispen Makedenge, Chief Superintendent Peter Magwenzi, and Senior Assistant Commissioner Simon Nyathi, were involved in some of the abductees' cases.”

Media organisation, MISA-Zimbabwe national Chairman, Loughty Dube, said police were unhappy that the newspaper exposed the officers.

The arrests of the two comes at a time when the government has just held an All-Stakeholders Media Conference in Kariba, meant to look at media reforms in the country. The event was however boycotted by the major organisations from the private media, grouped under the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe. The journalists boycotted the conference in solidarity with detained journalist Shadreck Manyere.

Dube said: “The latest arrest of the two and continued harassment of other journalists, is an indication of the non-seriousness of this government in dealing with media violations. The all inclusive government had indicated that it would push for changes and call for a change in the media environment, but that is not showing.”

Ironically, Kahiya and Chimakure are being represented by lawyer Innocent Chagonda, who is a member of the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC) – a panel set up to ensure the implementation of the Global Political Agreement in letter and spirit. It is also, among other issues, meant “to receive reports and complaints in respect of any issue related to the implementation, enforcement and execution of the agreement.”

There are many who would say the continued harassment and imprisonment of journalists is in direct contravention of the agreement.


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