ZIMBABWE: Laws used to “criminalise journalism”, minister

no_freedom_of_speech.jpgFreedom of Seech Prohibited HARARE - A senior Zimbabwean government official has admitted that laws passed by the previous administration were still being used to "criminalise journalism" and needed to be changed, after two journalists mo

"The developments are really unfortunate, in the sense that we still
have clauses in our statutes which are used to arrest journalists and
criminalise journalism, and hence infringe on media freedom and freedom
of expression," Jameson Timba, the deputy minister of media,
information and publicity, told IRIN. Timba is from the main faction of
the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) the former opposition party.

Vincent Kahiya, editor of the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper, and
Constantine Chimakure, the newspaper’s news editor, were arrested on 11
May for publishing an article that fingered intelligence and police
officers allegedly involved in the abduction of journalist and human
rights activist, Jestina Mukoko, and members of the MDC in late 2008.

Kahiya and Chimakure were released on bail on 12 May, but a police
spokesperson was quoted in the media as saying that the journalists had
sought to "undermine public confidence in law enforcement and security
agents".

Dumisani Muleya, a senior political reporter, told IRIN: "Journalists
continue to be harassed and to work in a repressive environment, which
means nothing has really changed since the inclusive government was
formed almost 100 days ago."

Timba underlined the need to review existing media laws, which had been
the objective of a conference held on 9 May. However, the gathering was
boycotted by media unions after Mukoko and freelance journalist
Andrison Manyere were arrested for the second time last week. Mukoko
has since been released.

Under the Global Political Agreement signed by Zimbabwe’s three main
political parties in September 2008, which underpins the unity
government, the government committed itself to immediately start
processing applications for the registration of media houses, but not
much has happened so far.

Two other journalists, the editor of the government-controlled The
Sunday News, Brezhnev Malaba, and journalist Nduduzo Tshuma, are also
expected to appear in court soon to face criminal defamation charges,
after naming senior police officers allegedly involved in a grain
distribution scandal in a report published in 2008.

The media reform conference, which recommended that the draconian media
laws be repealed, and that parliament control the public media, was
overshadowed by the arrest of the journalists.

The Zimbabwe Union of Journalists commented: "The irony is that the
manhunt for journalists at The Zimbabwe Independent was launched on the
day" that the conference on media law reform got underway.

IRIN

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