20 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Death Threat Journalist Released Without Charge

Journalist Obey Manayiti, who spent a night in police cells after being arrested for allegedly insulting a ZANU PF official, has been released.

Manayiti, an employee of the independent NewsDay newspaper, was arrested by police in Mutare on Monday, and charged under the Criminal Law (Codification & Reform) Act.

He was released without charge Wednesday, with the area prosecutor referring the docket back to the police for further investigation.

Manayiti's lawyer, Rangarirai Mubata, told SW Radio Africa that the prosecutor also queried why only Mukodza's statement had been recorded by the police.

Mubata said it was obvious from the docket that Mukodza had a "bone to chew" with Manayiti, considering that the reporter has been exposing the corrupt activities involving Mukodza and other ZANU PF officials in Manicaland.

Last month, President Robert Mugabe was reported as having ordered police to investigate fraud allegations involving more than $750,000 in diamond money, in which Mukodza and five others were implicated.

Mukodza has since been suspended from his post as provincial youth chairman for Manicaland on allegations of corruption, nepotism, provoking divisions within the ruling party, as well as insubordination.

Manayiti recounted how Mukodza pursued him into a car, after the two had exchanged greetings, threatening him with death. The reporter fled to the police station where he intended to make a report.

However upon arrival, the police refused to file Manayiti's report and instead, arrested and charged him with criminal insult after Mukodza had lodged an earlier complaint claiming the reporter had insulted him.

Zimbabwe's media environment is one of the most tightly restricted in the world with independent journalists constantly being harassed, physically attacked, arrested and detained while doing their work.

A recent report by pro-democracy institute Freedom House indicates that many were harassed while attempting to cover news events or sensitive political issues such as the constitutional reform process, parliamentary hearings, or the ongoing investigation into abuses at diamond mines.

Dozens of Zimbabwean journalists have fled the country in the past decade, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). The country boasts one of the largest numbers of exiled journalists in the world.

Last year, Freedom House ranked Zimbabwe 172 out of 197 countries, the worst overall ranking in the southern Africa region. Zimbabwe.

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