Two freelance journalists who were arrested when police broke up an opposition demonstration in Harare on 11 March, photographer Tsvangirai Mukwazhi and reporter Tendai Musiyu, were freed yesterday evening along with opposition activists who had been arrested at the same time. Both are contributors to the Associated Press news agency.
Mukwazhi had been held at the Avondale police station in Harare along with Arthur Mutambara, the leader of one of the two factions of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). He and Musiyu were taken late yesterday before a Harare court, which released them and several dozen activists after the prosecutor failed to show up.
Mukwazhi’s lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, said he was beaten while in custody but was not badly hurt, unlike some of the demonstrators who had been arrested at the same time.
13.03.2007 - Two journalists arrested, a third beaten as police crush opposition rallies
Reporters Without Borders today called for the release of two freelance journalists, arrested while covering an opposition demonstration two days ago in the capital Harare. It also protested against a brutal beating police meted out to a former editor.
Nothing has been heard of Tsvangirai Mukwazhi, a freelance photographer working for the US-owned Associated Press (AP), since Zimbabwean police arrested him on 11 March along with a freelance journalist, also working for AP, Tendai Musiyu.
Lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa said that Musiyu was being held at the Marlborough police station, while lawyers working for the local branch of the press freedom organisation, Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Zimbabwe), said they were continuing to search for Mukwazhi’s place of detention.
The two journalists were arrested during a prayer meeting held by the Save Zimbabwe Campaign (SZC) in the working class district of Highfield, brutally put down by police, along with numerous activists and opposition figures, including Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, leaders of the two factions of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). The SZC is a collective grouping churches; opposition parties, including the MDC; non-governmental organisations; the trade unions and student bodies opposed to Robert Mugabe’s government.
The same day, the former editor of the privately-owned but now defunct Daily News, Luke Tamborinyoka, was badly beaten by police during the demonstration organised at the Zimbabwe Grounds, leaving him with cuts and a bruised back.
“Nothing can justify keeping arrested journalists in custody,” the press freedom organisation said. “For several years the Zimbabwean government has been using the police to silence those who criticise it and those likely to report on their behaviour. This intolerance, which is not new, must continue to be fought,” it said.