Media rights watchdog MISA-Zimbabwe has warned that there are an increasing number of incidents involving intimidation of the media, ahead of the next elections.
Most recently, the editor of the Weekly Mirror provincial newspaper in Mashonaland West was arrested Tuesday on allegations of operating a media house without a licence, in contravention of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA).
Dennis Kagonye was held in detention overnight before being brought before Chinoyi Magistrate Fanuel Nyakudya on Wednesday. The magistrate sentenced Kagonye to two months in prison with the option of a US$100 fine, which he elected to pay.
Kagonye was also handed a suspended sentence of six months imprisonment, on condition he does not commit a similar offence within the next five years.
The editor's arrest comes barely two weeks after he was summoned by the police following the publication of an article in the Weekly Mirror in September, titled: "Chief terrorises headman". It is unclear yet whether his arrest was in any way connected to this, but observers have said it all forms part of the widespread intimidation of media players
MISA-Zimbabwe information officer, Nyasha Nyakunu, told SW Radio Africa that Kagonye's case also "vindicates our position that AIPPA is undemocratic." He explained that charges against Kagonye should not have been tried as a criminal case.
"This shows the need for an electoral roadmap ahead of the next elections that will guarantee the reform of the media to ensure the safety of media professionals. If these laws are still in place come elections, then more journalists will be arrested," Nyakunu warned.