29 June 2011

Zimbabwe: Standard Editor And Reporter Picked Up By Police in Harare

Two journalists from the Zimbabwe Standard newspaper were on Wednesday picked up by the police, over a story the paper published about the arrest last week of the MDC-T Minister Jameson Timba, who was released from custody on Sunday.

On Wednesday morning the paper's editor, Nevanji Madanhire, posted on the social networking site Facebook that reporter Patience Nyangove had been picked up from their offices by two detectives.

An hour later three detectives, who identified themselves as Sergeants Mhangura, Kahoba and Makore were back at the Alpha Media Holdings offices to pick up Madanhire.

Loud Ramakgapola, AMH's human resources manager, accompanied Madanhire to the Harare Central police station where Nyangove is being detained. Madanhire and Nyangove have both been charged with criminal defamation.

The arrest of the two journalists comes barely two days after the Daily News newspaper reported an imminent crackdown on reporters. The independent daily paper said a ZANU PF politburo member, presumed to be serial flip flopper Jonathan Moyo, was plotting the arrest of journalists from the independent media over stories critical of Robert Mugabe.

It is assumed the charges against the journalists stem from a story Nyangove wrote on Sunday in which she referred to police officer Crispen Makedenge as 'notorious.'

In the article Nyangove wrote; 'Police have denied arresting the Minister, who is also the MDC-T's secretary for international affairs, despite his personal assistant Munyaradzi Bwanya saying he saw officers, including the notorious Crispen Makedenge, taking him to Harare Central Police station.'

In recent months the ZANU PF members in the inclusive government have become increasingly intolerant of any critique of their leader and party and have used any criticism as an excuse to crack down.

Though the country has made some reforms in the last year to allow more independent papers to publish, there are still draconian laws that stifle journalists. Reporting on topics such as human rights abuses, ZANU PF corruption or the junta taking over the reins of power, is routinely punishable by arrests and days in filthy police cells.

Exiled journalist Makusha Mugabe told SW Radio on Wednesday that detaining journalists on a regular basis is an attempt to silence the scribes from writing the truth and to intimidate the others.

'What is criminal about referring to Makedenge as notorious? Ask MDC activists and pro-democracy campaigners like Jestina Mukoko who have been arrested in the last three years and they will tell you this Makedenge is evil and a gross human rights violator.

'So when journalists write the truth about these characters they get arrested. This is amazing,' Makusha said.

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