The Standard newspaper editor Nevanji Madanhire was on Tuesday arrested and charged under Section 31 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, which relates to publishing falsehoods prejudicial to the state.
He is being held at Rhodesville Police Station.
Madanhire’s lawyer, Chris Mhike, confirmed the arrest and charge against his client.
“I can confirm that he is being charged under Section 31 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, which relates to publishing false statements prejudicial to the state. He has signed the warned-and-cautioned statement,” Mhike said.
Although a warned-and-cautioned statement had been signed, Mhike said the police were still detaining Madanhire at the station.
Alpha Media Holdings Editor-in-Chief Vincent Kahiya said it was hard to explain the police action given the fact that the Supreme Court was still to deliver a ruling on the constitutionality of the law Madanhire was being charged under.
“I find it difficult to understand how the state continues to charge journalists under Section 31 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, whose constitutionality the same state struggled to defend in a Supreme Court case last year,” Kahiya said.
“At a time we are eagerly awaiting the ruling of the Supreme Court, the police have continued to employ the law as a weapon of choice to intimidate the media. This is deplorable, to say the least.”
The arrest of Madanhire comes hard on the heels of the arrest and detention of The Standard’s Bulawayo-based journalist, Nqobani Ndlovu, under the same charges.
Ndlovu was released after spending nine days at Khami Remand Prison outside Bulawayo.
He was released after the High Court dismissed an appeal by the state seeking to challenge the granting of bail by a magistrate.
The arrests are in connection with a story published in The Standard stating that police had frozen internal promotions this year to accommodate war veterans.
The story alleged the war vets were being recruited to direct operations during next year’s anticipated elections.
Ndlovu was granted $100 bail, but the state invoked the draconian Section 121 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, which meant he had to spend up to seven more days in jail while the state appealed.
Media Institute of Southern Africa-Zimbabwe Chapter chairperson Loughty Dube on Tuesday condemned the continued harassment of journalists and said Zimbabwean authorities should stop this harassment and intimidation of journalists.
“This is a continuation of harassment of journalists and the police should desist from this practice. We want journalists to be allowed to go about their work without being harassed and intimidated and we call upon the police to allow journalists to go about their work without fear,” he said.
Zimbabwe Union of Journalists president Dumisani Sibanda said the police force was a government institution which should be prepared to face scrutiny in its activities. We (journalists) are watchdogs of society and we will not be deterred. Journalists should continue to discharge their duties professionally, without fear or favour,” he said.
“Police should concentrate on fighting crime and arresting criminals instead of following up professionals doing their duties. We will not be intimidated and we will continue to expose social ills,” he said.
The recent arrests and detention of journalists in Zimbabwe has received national and worldwide condemnation, with human rights groups accusing police of being heavy-handed.
A petition drawn up by the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe, was presented to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai at his Munhumutapa office in Harare on Friday and also to South African President Jacob Zuma who is the Sadc facilitator.
The petition called on the inclusive government to ensure an end to all harassment, intimidation, illegal detention and criminalisation of the work of journalists, media practitioners and media houses.