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Standard journalists application dismissed

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Harare provincial magistrate Kudakwashe Jarabini yesterday dismissed an application by The Standard journalists to have their matter, in which they are being charged with criminal defamation, referred to the Supreme Court.

In his brief ruling, the magistrate said the matter should proceed to trial and immediately remanded it to January 24 next year.

The journalists had sought the Supreme Court’s intervention, arguing the charge they were facing infringed on their constitutional rights.

Editor Nevanji Madanhire and former Standard reporter Patience Nyangove are being jointly charged with Alpha Media Holdings group human resources manager Loud Ramakgapola.

The application was made in terms of Section 24(2) of the Constitution. The journalists’ argument was that the charge infringed on the rights of the members of the fourth arm of the State, the Press, who are expected to freely express themselves and disseminate information without fear or favour.

The matter was supposed to proceed to trial last week after prosecutor Tapiwa Kasema said Ramakgapola could be charged as a representative of The Standard newspaper contrary to the defence’s argument that The Standard was the name of the newspaper and not a company.

The defence lawyers objected to the continuation of trial arguing the Supreme Court, sitting as a Constitutional Court, would rule in favour of the journalists’ contention that criminal defamation was unconstitutional.

The charges stem from the publication of a story carried in the weekly paper’s issue of June 26 – July 2, titled: “MDC-T fears for missing Timba”.

It was based on an MDC-T statement that the party feared for the life of Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Jameson Timba after he was arrested for allegedly calling President Robert Mugabe a liar.

A number of cases challenging criminal defamation are pending at the Supreme Court.

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