15 November 2011

Zimbabwe: Two Journalists Arrested and Charged With Theft and Defamation

Nevanji Madanhire, the editor of the weekly Zimbabwe Standard newspaper, and reporter Nqaba Matshazi, were arrested in Harare on Tuesday and charged with theft, unlawful entry and criminal defamation.

It is believed the journalists were taken to the Harare Central Police station. Company lawyers were making frantic efforts to gain access to the scribes.

The duo's arrest is over a story Matshazi wrote on 6th November that claimed a new health insurance firm, Green Card Medical Society, was reportedly on the brink of collapse. The story claimed that the company's expenditure outstripped its income.

Matshazi's article was based on leaked documents, which the company founder Munyaradzi Kereke claims were stolen from his offices to cast his firm in bad light.

It's revealed in the documents that Green Card members had made claims of about US$121,000, yet the company had only collected US$87,600, meaning the company was spending up to a quarter more than it was receiving. These figures were from April 2011 to September 2011.

Kereke, who is Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono's advisor, is also claiming US$2.5 million compensation, in a civil case for the story published by the Standard.

On Friday last week, five plain clothes police details raided the newspaper's offices with a search warrant, claiming that they were looking for stolen documents belonging to Kereke.

Reports said the policemen, led by detective assistant inspector J. Mukandi searched through desk drawers belonging to deputy editor Walter Marwizi, proof reader Chipo Masara, and reporters Nqaba Matshazi and Kudzai Chimhangwa.

They then went through to editor Madanhire's office. All they found was Kereke's response to allegations that his company's financial expenditure outweighed its income position. Media organisations roundly condemned the police raid saying such actions were detrimental to the development and growth of press freedom in Zimbabwe.

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