Gift Phiri, a contributor to the London-based weekly The Zimbabwean, was released on bail yesterday and was immediately hospitalized for treatment to injuries resulting from the beatings he received during four days in police custody.
Judge Gloria Takundwa agreed to free Phiri on bail of 20,000 Zimbabwean dollars (62 euros) and set trial for 25 April. In the meantime, he will have to report to Harare police headquarters every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, reside at the same address and avoid contact with anyone who might be a witness at the trial.
Arrested on 1 April, he is charged with working as a journalist without official accreditation and publishing false news under sections 79 and 80 of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
4.04.2007 Freelancer held illegally and badly beaten in custody
Reporters Without Borders today reiterated its call for the release of Gift Phiri, a contributor to the London-based weekly The Zimbabwean, who has been badly beaten since his arrest on 1 April and has not been taken before a judge.
His lawyer, Rangu Nyamurundira, said Phiri was initially accused of throwing Molotov cocktails. Then he was accused of working as a journalist without being accredited with the Media and Information Commission. Under Zimbabwean law, he should have been taken before a court within 48 hours.
Nyamurundira, who has asked the high court to order his release or to have him brought before a judge immediately, said Phiri now has difficulty sitting, standing or walking because of all the beatings he has received while in custody. Nyamurundira has not been allowed to see him since 2 April. The last time they spoke, Phiri said he had been forced to sign a confession that he had worked illegally as a journalist and reported false information.
2.04.2007 Journalist arrested, another hospitalised after beating in detention
Reporters Without Borders expressed outrage today at the arrest of a journalist working for a privately-owned Zimbabwean weekly published outside the country and the hospitalisation of the former editor of the now-closed paper The Daily News, after he was beaten in prison, and called for an international campaign to stop the government’s violence.
“The government is stepping up its years-long violent behaviour, including against journalists, under pressure of opposition protests and only international efforts, especially in Africa, can stop the abitrary arrests and abusive treatment,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said.
Gift Phiri, of the London-based weekly The Zimbabwean, was arrested in Harare on 1 April for no apparent reason. He had time to send a text-message to a friend saying he had been arrested and that he thought it was for political reasons. The friend said Phiri had been sought by police since his paper started printing the names of police and politicians involved in recent arrests of opposition figures, human rights activists and journalists.
Phiri was attacked on 16 February last year on his way home in the eastern Harare suburb of Sunningdale by men who accused him of working for the US radio station Voice of America (VOA) and the privately-owned Zimbabwean radio station Voice of People (VOP), which broadcasts from outside the country.
Luke Tamborinyoka, former editor of The Daily News, was taken to hospital on 30 March on the orders of a Harare judge after fainting in court. He was seriously injured in beatings since he was arrested on 28 March in police raids on premises of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) along with 34 party activists. He was also badly beaten by police during an opposition meeting at Zimbabwe Grounds (Harare) on 11 March