Anger grows as another media rights group member detained
By Alex Bell
Anger was growing on Tuesday after a fourth member of the Media Monitoring
Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ) was picked up by police and detained, amid worsening
harassment of the media.
MMPZ Project Coordinator Andy Moyse was picked up on Tuesday morning by a
team of five police officers from Harare’s Law and Order Section, led by
Detective Assistant Inspector Phiri. According to the MMPZ, the officers,
armed with a warrant, went on to search their offices for “material which
comprises of compact discs containing Gukurahundi information.” The police
allege that MMPZ members may have acted in breach of section 31 of the
Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, that is, “publishing or
communicating false statements prejudicial to the state.”
“Whilst the police officers indicated that (Andy) was not formally under
arrest, MMPZ is concerned that the police may detain him to investigate a
matter whose circumstances and gravity do not at all warrant pre-trial
detention. MMPZ urges the police to grant Moyse all his pre-trial rights and
not to harm his physical and psychological person for the entire period he
is in their custody,” MMPZ said.
Moyse’s detention comes as MMPZ advocacy officers Fadzai December and Molly
Chimhanda, and the Gwanda chairperson of MMPZ’S Public Information Rights
Forum Committee Gilbert Mabusa, remain in custody at Gwanda police station.
They are all being charged under POSA, in connection with a civic education
meeting held in Gwanda last month. The three are also being charged under
the terms of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act for
“participating in a gathering with intent to promote public violence,
breaches of the peace or bigotry.”
By Tuesday afternoon, key legal and civil society groups had expressed their
outrage over the arrests, including Article 19 in Kenya, the International
Commission of Jurists, Freedom House, the Youth Forum, the Voluntary Media
Council, Veritas, the Pamberi Trust and others. The MDC-T also condemned the
arrests saying: “The MDC expresses revulsion over the continued arrests,
detention and persecution of journalists at a time when the country is
supposed to be working hard to open up space for freedom of expression,
assembly and communication.”
The detention of the MMPZ members follows the recent arrests and
intimidation of local journalists. The Daily News editor, Stanley Gama and
reporter Xolisani Ncube were arrested last week on the instructions of ZANU
PF’s Minister of Local Government Ignatius Chombo. They were charged with
criminal defamation after exposing Chombo’s alleged ill-gotten wealth. Last
month Nevanji Madanhire, the editor of The Standard plus reporter Nqaba
Matshazi, were also arrested after reporting on the business of another ZANU
Dewa Mavhinga from the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition condemned the arrests,
saying it “points to a growing pattern of unwarranted harassment against the
media and civil society by a very partisan police force.”
“We do not have a democratic, independent police force. We have an
institution that has been taken over by subversive, partisan elements.
Clearly Zimbabwe is not ready to hold election,” Mavhinga told SW Radio
Njabulo Ncube, the Chairman of the media rights group MISA Zimbabwe, agreed
that the country is not ready for another poll.
“These arrests give credence to our assertion that as we draw closer to an
election, we will see more attempts to stifle media freedom and access to
information,” Ncube warned.
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