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Detained journalist assaulted
April 02, 2007

Freelance journalist Gift Phiri is reportedly in bad shape after he was severely assaulted while in police custody following his arrest in Harare on 1 April 2007.

According to reliable sources MISA-Zimbabwe understands that Phiri who is being detained at Harare Central Police Station can hardly sit as a result of the beatings he was subjected to following his arrest and subsequent detention.

MISA-Zimbabwe has been reliably informed that his interrogators are demanding the disclosure of the sources of the stories published in The Zimbabwean for which he strings as a freelance journalist. The police are alleged to have searched and confiscated a computer and compact discs from his home.

Rangu Nyamurundira of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights was this morning denied access to the detained journalist by police at Harare Central Police Station.

Phiri who freelances for The Zimbabwean which is published in London, was arrested at Sunningdale Shopping Centre on Sunday afternoon. He was briefly taken to Sunningdale Police Post before being transferred to Harare Central Police Station.

Alec Muchadehama who is representing Phiri confirmed that the freelance journalist was being detained by officers from the Law and Order Section at Harare Central Police Station. Muchadehama was not yet in a position to shed light on the events and details leading to Phiri's arrest as he was still to have access to his client.

Recommended Action
MISA-Zimbabwe notes with great concern and condemns in no uncertain terms the increase in the number of cases involving the wanton arrests, detention and assault of journalists going about their lawful and professional duties and demands that:

  • the police should immediately grant lawyers representing Phiri access to their client.
  • the charges that Phiri is facing should be availed to his lawyers.
  • the journalist should immediately be produced before the courts as a matter of urgency in view of the reports that he has been severely assaulted.
  • the government through the Ministry of Information should make its position clear regarding the wanton, arrests, detention and torture of journalists who are duly accredited to conduct their professional duties in terms of the repressive Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA).
  • the police or any other security agents for that matter should desist from the wanton arrest, detention and torture of journalists going about their lawful duties and that those who are responsible for these actions will personally be held accountable for their actions as the crime of torture is an international crime that attracts individual criminal responsibility.

Of great concern to MISA-Zimbabwe is the fact that Phiri's arrest comes hard on the heels of that of freelance journalist Frank Chikowore and barely weeks after the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights' Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, Advocate Pansy Tlakula, sent an urgent appeal to President Robert Mugabe regarding the deteriorating situation on freedom of expression in Zimbabwe.

Her complaint to President Mugabe followed the severe assault and unlawful detention on 11 March 2007 of Tsvangirai Mukwazhi and Tendai Musiyazviriyo, a photojournalist and film producer who respectively freelance for Associated Press, when the police disrupted a national day of prayer meeting at Zimbabwe Grounds in Highfield, Harare.

In light of these developments, MISA-Zimbabwe is left with no option but to request the Special Rapporteur to urgently intervene once more and urge President Robert Mugabe to guarantee the security of journalists and other freedom of expression activists.

MISA-Zimbabwe requests that you send your letters of protests demanding the release of Phiri to the following addresses.

President Robert Mugabe
Office of the President and Cabinet
Munhumutapa Building
Samora Machel Avenue/3rd Street
Telephone: 263 4 707091

Minister of Home Affairs
11th Floor Mukwati Building
Telephone: 263 4 723653

Commissioner of Police
Police General Headquarters
Josiah Chinamano Avenue
Telephone: 263 4 700171
Fax: 253212

Visit the MISA-Zimbabwe fact sheet

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