Three South Africans who were given six-month prison sentences for transporting broadcast equipment owned by British TV company Sky News - Bernet Hasani Sono, Resemate Boy Chauke and Simon Maodi - have been freed on the orders of high court judge Maphios Cheda, who commuted their sentences to fines of 50 billion Zimbabwean dollars (1.50 euros). He ruled that the jail sentences imposed last month by a Bulawayo magistrate were “unduly harsh.”
4.06.2008 - Three South African drivers get six months in prison for transporting Sky News equipment
Reporters Without Borders condemns the six-month prison sentences that a court in the southwestern city of Bulawayo passed on three South African drivers on 2 June for “unauthorised possession of TV broadcast equipment” and urges the judicial authorities to release them.
“The Zimbabwean authorities stop at nothing to control and punish foreign news media and anyone else who is liable to draw attention to the disastrous situation in the Zimbabwe,” the press freedom organisation said. “Such severe sentences are incredible. We call on the Zimbabwean courts to overturn this decision.”
The three drivers - Bernet Hasani Sono, Resemate Boy Chauke and Simon Maodi - were found to be carrying equipment belonging to British TV broadcaster Sky News when they were stopped at a police roadblock on 23 May. The police arrested them on suspicion of illegally transmitting video from a Bulawayo factory and seized all the equipment, including satellite dishes, mobile phones and cameras.
The drivers pleaded guilty to violating the Broadcasting Act, for which they were given six months in prison. They got an additional six weeks in prison for entering Zimbabwe without passports.
Like many other foreign TV news broadcasters including the BBC and CNN, Sky News was refused permission to cover the 29 March general elections.