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Children's rights activists and documentarists arrested
August 23, 2007

Two American children's rights activists were today, 23 August, deported from Zimbabwe for practicing journalism without accreditation after filming a documentary on the Director of Girl Child Network, Betty Makoni.

Speaking to MISA-Zimbabwe on 23 August 2003, Betty Makoni said the three were detained on Monday 20 August 2007 after intelligence officers descended on the Girl Child Network village in Chitungwiza, a town outside the capital, Harare. Video cameras, filming equipment, passports and tickets were confiscated and they were told to report to the police the following morning at 8 pm.

On reporting to the police yesterday, the three were arrested and interrogated for over 13 hours. Makoni was released after this period without any charges while the other two were held in police custody overnight as the charges had not yet been specified. Today, 23 August 2007, the trio was charged under section 83.1 of the draconian Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) which prohibits practicing journalism in the country without accreditation.

Mr. Chibwe, of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), who represented the three, was manhandled and dragged out of the police station when he attempted to visit the three in jail on 21 August. He was threatened with imprisonment if he persisted in trying to gain access to his clients.

The Americans were in the country to film Betty Makoni's work at Girl Child Network ahead of the launch of a book entitled "Women who lie in the dark" in which she will be featured. All the equipment, excluding a laptop was returned to the Americans before they left. MISA-Zimbabwe was informed by Betty Makoni that the police say the laptop will be given to their lawyer in due course.

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