British journalist Jonathan Clayton, a correspondent for The Times of London, was deported to South Africa after being sentenced yesterday by a court in Bulawayo to a fine of 20 billion Zimbabwean dollars (150 euros) or six months in prison for making false statements to immigration officials when he arrived in Bulawayo on flight from South Africa on 9 April.
Presiding judge Phathekile Msipa said that, when questioned by immigration officials at the airport, Clayton vehemently denied being linked to any news media. Clayton, who appeared in court in leg irons and wearing a prisoner’s uniform, pleaded not guilty. His passport and personal effects were returned to him and he was put on the first flight to Johannesburg.
16.04.2008 - More journalists arrested as political crisis deepens
Reporters Without Borders is deeply concerned about freelance journalist Frank Chikowore, who was arrested by police near his Harare home yesterday and has since been held in an unknown location. The organisation also calls for the release of British journalist Jonathan Clayton, who was arrested at Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo international airport in Bulawayo on 9 April.
“As Zimbabwe sinks deeper into crisis, the authorities are using its Kafkaesque laws to take radical measures with people they regard as getting in the way,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We are extremely worried about Chikowore, who has proper press accreditation and who has nonetheless been virtually kidnapped by the police for no known reason.”
The press freedom organisation added: “Journalists continue to be arrested under a repressive 2002 press law and we fear even greater dangers for journalists if the political situation worsens.”
The Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA), a regional press freedom organisation, said Chikowore was seen for the last time when he was brought home at 11 a.m. yesterday by four policemen in anti-riot gear and three plain-clothes police officers. They searched his home and left with a computer, a recorder and a camera, and with Chikowore.
Harrison Nkomo, a lawyer appointed by the MISA to represent Chikowore, has been unable to find out where he is being held, despite going to Harare police headquarters three times to ask. “The police deny that they are holding him and claim they have never seen him,” Nkomo said. “I don’t know where he is.”
Chikowore used to work for the now banned Weekly Times, but he has been a freelance journalist for the past several years and he has accreditation issued by the Media and Information Commission, an essential requirement for anyone working as a journalist in Zimbabwe.
Clayton was arrested at Bulawayo airport on 9 April on the grounds that he tried to enter Zimbabwe as a tourist. He was brought before a court in Bulawayo on 14 April. The court is expected to issue a decision in the next day or so.
Margaret Ann Kriel, 60, who used to be a journalist with the state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), was released on bail on 12 April after being held for two days. She has been placed under house arrest pending a court decision as to whether she is to be charged with working as a journalist without accreditation. The authorities claimed she interviewed several people including opposition politicians.