Media Unions condemn arrest of Daily News journalists

Journalists’ representative unions have condemned the recent arrest of Daily News Group Editor, Stanley Gama and senior reporter, Fungi Kwaramba, under the ‘unconstitutional criminal defamation laws’.

Gama and Kwaramba were yesterday summoned to sign warned and cautioned statements at Highlands Police Station before being released, over a story linking Omani businessman, Kamal Khalfan, to underhand deals in Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwe Union of Journalists and the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe, said the criminal defamation laws used by police to lay charges against the two, were outlawed and an affront to the right to freedom of expression and access to information that is guaranteed in the constitution.

“VMCZ is concerned at the arrest of the two as it comes barely a month after assurances from the Ministry of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services, that criminal defamation laws will be removed from the country’s statutes,” said VMCZ Director, Loughty Dube, in a statement.

Dube called on authorities to stop using the outdated and undemocratic defamation laws to arrest and intimidate journalists and media professionals.

He said if the unprecedented arrest was left unchecked, it would lead to many unwarranted arrests of journalists and in the process militate against efforts to report factually, truthfully and without bias.

VMCZ urged aggrieved parties to make use of the VMCZ Media Complaints mechanism, which allows parties to resolve complaints against the media in an amicable and expeditious manner.

ZUJ said it had always condemned the use of criminal defamation laws and their impact on access to information and freedom of expression.

Khalfan, who owns Catercraft among other businesses, accuses the journalists of ‘having published material that was highly possible to be false material, and risking to cause serious harm to his reputation ’.

The Daily News represented by respected lawyer, Alec Muchadehama, denies the allegations.

Muchadehama said the stories were published from a credible source, and were also published in the public interest.

Khalfan has already sued the Daily News for $10 million in a civil lawsuit before the High Court.

Information Minister, Jonathan Moyo, was quoted as saying the criminal defamation laws in legal statutes had caused more harm than good.

Moyo said he was convinced that the days of having criminal defamation laws ‘in our statutes now lie in the past’.

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