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Stop harassing journalists — lawyer

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Harare-based lawyer Chris Mhike has once again expressed grave concern over the continued harassment of journalists by the state.

Speaking after Alpha Media Holdings group editor-in-chief Vincent Kahiya and Zimbabwe Independent editor Constantine Chimakure were remanded to March 14 2011, Mhike, the editors’ lawyer, complained over what he said was unfair treatment of media practitioners.

The two are being charged under Section 31 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act that relates to the publishing or communicating a statement wholly or materially false, with the intention of undermining public confidence in law enforcement agents.

The charges arise from a story published in the Zimbabwe Independent in May last year under the heading, “CIO, police role in activists’ abduction revealed”.

The story stated that notices of indictment for trial in the High Court, served on some of the abducted activists, including rights activist Jestina Mukoko, revealed that the activists were either in the custody of the feared spy agency, the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), or the police during the period they were reported missing.

“I am deeply dismayed at the abuse of my clients by the state,” said Mhike. “We have been waiting for three hours since 8am only for my clients to stand in the dock for five minutes.

“This shabby treatment gives a bad name to the justice delivery system and gives the impression to citizens that lawyers are expensive and that courts have no respect for ordinary citizens.

“Journalists now feel they are being subjected to harassment and punishment because of their profession,” he said.

Mhike said he would challenge the state to remove the two journalists from remand at their next hearing.

In June this year, the Supreme Court reserved judgment in the matter where the two editors challenged the constitutionality of Section 31 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, which criminalises the communication of statements that are likely to undermine public confidence in law enforcement agents.

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