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Zimbabwe16 July 2008

Judge removes two journalists from remand

A Harare judge ruled on 14 July that two journalists - Frank Chikowore, a freelancer, and Luke Tamborinyoka, a former editor of the now-closed Daily News - and 12 opposition activists should be removed from remand because of the state’s failure to prosecute them on charges of “public violence”.

Arrested in Harare on 15 April for allegedly helping to set fire to a bus, Chikowore and Tamborinyoka were released on bail 17 days later.

Their lawyer, Alec Muchadehama, pointed out to the judge on 14 July that his two clients had systematically turned up in court for all the hearings but the prosecutors had repeatedly failed to set a trial date. The judge ruled that the two journalists and the opposition activists could be summoned again if prosecutors produced new evidence.

05.05.2008 - Freelancer Frank Chikowore freed on bail after 17 days

Freelance journalist Frank Chikowore was released on bail on 2 May along with the six opposition members with whom he was arrested on 15 April, his lawyer, Alec Muchadehama, said.

But freelance journalist Precious Shumba, a programmes officer in the Harare office of the international aid NGO ActionAid, is still detained along with ActionAid country director Anne Chipembere and three other ActionAid employees at the “Law and Order” section of the Harare central police station. Shumba was reporter for The Daily News until it was forced to close.

02.05.2008 - Another journalist arrested, 10th since 29 March general elections

Reporters Without Borders condemns yesterday’s arrest of freelance journalist Precious Shumba in a police raid on the Harare office of the international aid NGO ActionAid, where Shumba works as a programmes officer. A reporter for The Daily News until it was forced to close, he is the 10th journalist to be arrested since the general elections.

“The police are still operating as the armed wing of a beleaguered government, instead of keeping order and protecting citizens,” the press freedom organisation said.

“Zimbabwe’s police force was gradually turned into a militia that looks after the interests of Robert Mugabe and his cronies and cracks down on those who get in their way. Any peaceful solution to Zimbabwe’s crisis must include the release of all the victims of this unjust situation, in which journalists have been favourite targets.”

When the police raided ActionAid’s office yesterday morning, they arrested all of the five employees present, including Shumba and ActionAid country director Anne Chipembere. They are currently being held at the “Law and Order” section of the Harare central police station but have not yet been formally charged.

A Harare court yesterday again postponed a decision on a request for the release of freelance journalist Frank Chikowore on bail. Chikowore was arrested with 27 members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) on 15 April for allegedly disturbing the peace. At first he was wrongly accused of working without the required Media and Information Commission’s accreditation. Now, he and six MDC members are charged with helping to set fire to a bus.

Another freelance journalist, Stanley Karombo, is currently hospitalised as a result of being badly beaten while detained from 18 to 21 April. Arrested as he was taking photos during a speech by President Mugabe at an independence day event at Gwanzura stadium in the Harare suburb of Highfield, he was taken to a room underneath the stadium and was beaten all day by several policemen, who accused him of “sending films to America.”

“At 9 p.m., they blindfolded me and took me somewhere else,” he told fellow journalists who visited him in hospital. “I woke up the next day in a cell. I am afraid at night. I can no longer stand the dark. I have the feeling that something terrible is going to happen. I keep having nightmares and I am having problems with my vision.”

In this country
14 May - Zimbabwe
Three journalists arrested, held overnight then freed on bail
21 April - Zimbabwe
Freelance photojournalist released on bail
3 March - Zimbabwe
Woman journalist freed after being held for three months
18 February - Zimbabwe
Reporters Without Borders makes three recommendations in open letter to Morgan Tsvangirai
9 January - Zimbabwe
Regional body asked to intercede on behalf of imprisoned woman journalist

in the annual report
Zimbabwe - Annual Report 2008
Zimbabwe - Annual Report 2007
Zimbabwe - Annual report 2006

Africa press releases
3 June - Somalia
Alarm at TV station director’s abduction near Mogadishu
27 May - Gabon
Government imposes news blackout on President Bongo’s health
26 May - Somalia
Radio reporter shot by militia dies of injuries, fourth journalist to be killed this year

africa archives

18 March 2009 - Democratic Republic of Congo
“Bukavu, murder city”: investigation report into murders of journalists in the capital of Sud-Kivu
21 May 2008 - Eritrea
Naizghi Kiflu, the dictatorship’s eminence grise
6 March 2008 - Kenya
"How far to go ?" Kenya’s media caught in the turmoil of a failed election

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Sign the petition for the release of ten Eritrean journalists