Standard journalist arrested and charged with criminal defamation

justicePolice in Bulawayo on Wednesday arrested Standard journalist Nqobani Ndlovu and charged him with criminal defamation, for a story he wrote on the cancellation of promotional examinations in the force. In an article that appeared in the latest edition of the Standard, the 26 year-old Ndlovu alleged that the examinations were being scrapped to facilitate the absorption of

Our Bulawayo correspondent Lionel Saungweme told us Ndlovu was arrested in the presence of his lawyer, Josephat Tshuma, when the two visited Bulawayo central police station in the morning.

Police have indicated that Ndlovu will spend 24 hours in custody to help them with their investigations over the story that he wrote. There are indications he will appear in court in the morning (Thursday), Saungweme said.

On Tuesday, police had swooped on the offices of the Standard newspaper in Bulawayo, and taken away bureau chief Dumisani Sibanda for questioning. MISA-Zimbabwe said police from the Criminal Investigations Departments Law and Order section interrogated him over the whereabouts of Ndlovu. He was only released when he said that the journalist was out of town.

Saungweme said Ndlovu has been charged under Section 96 of the Criminal Law of Codification act and reform for allegedly publishing defamatory statements against the Police Commissioner and the police force as an organisation.

Ndlovus lawyer also informed me that the police have indicated that they wanted to arrest the editor of the Standard, Nevanji Madanhire, over the story. This year alone there has been a serious crackdown on journalists, observed Saungweme.

Three weeks ago freelance journalists, Nkosana Dlamini and Andreson Manyere were arrested in Harare and held overnight before being charged with criminal nuisance.

In established democracies, charges of criminal defamation have been outlawed and scrapped from laws that govern many countries in the western world.

Recently Irene Petras, the director of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, said cases of criminal defamation involving scribes was proof that there were still major challenges facing journalists in the country.

She said; Criminal defamation is not something we need in our statutory books. People have enough remedies to resolve these issues without instituting criminal charges.

In a document on criminal defamation, MISA-Zimbabwe says defamation laws have the effect of not only silencing the media but also silencing society, which relies on the media to know and critique government decisions.

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