VMCZ statement on the arrest of Standard journalists.

The Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) condemns in the strongest terms possible the arrest on Tuesday this week of Standard Editor, Nevanji Madanhire, and reporter Nqaba Matshazi on charges of criminal defamation and theft of documents from Green Card Medical Aid Society.

The arrest of the two follows the recent publication of an article in which the newspaper wrote of the possibility of the medical aid society’s collapse.

The police are charging the two under Section 113 of the Criminal Code for theft of documents and Section 96 of the code for criminal defamation.

VMCZ calls for the immediate release of the two journalists and implores the police to desist from harassing and arresting journalists on unsubstantiated, unproven and frivolous charges.

While the VMCZ is cognisant that police have a role to play in maintaining law and order in the country, we urge the police to resort to the mechanism put in place to deal with cases with such charges as those involving the Standard journalists.

It is against this background that VMCZ urges all Zimbabweans, who have a problem with a media story as is published by print or broadcast media in the country to approach the VMCZ Media Complaints Committee, set up by the journalists, to seek redress.

VMCZ views the arrest of the two as part of a growing campaign to intimidate the media and muzzle the press, in a bid to stop journalists from unearthing corrupt practises.

VMCZ also calls on the inclusive government to condemn the police actions. The government must demonstrate its commitment to the principles of accountability by enforcing freedom of expression as stated in Article 19 of the GPA.

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