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Journalist trial opens
August 27, 2007

The trial of Gift Phiri who is facing charges of contravening Section 79 (1) of the repressive Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) opened at the Harare Magistrate Court on 27 August 2007.

Phiri, whose charge relates to practicing journalism without accreditation between August 2006 and April 2007 pleaded not guilty to stringing for The Zimbabwean.

At the commencement of the trial, the defence team of Beatrice Mtetwa and Harrison Nkomo together with MISA-Zimbabwe Legal Officer Wilbert Mandinde raised the issue of the outstanding investigations into the torture and detention of Phiri as ordered by the remand court on 5 April 2007. Phiri was allegedly severely assaulted by the police while in custody following his arrest in Harare on 1 April 2007.

Mtetwa, who is the team leader told Harare Magistrate Stanley Chimedza that in terms of Section 71 of the Magistrate Court Act, the court can find anyone who disobeys its orders to be in contempt of court and urged the court to consider bringing contempt of court proceedings against the police who have failed, neglected or simply refused to come up with a report on the torture and over- detention allegations.

The prosecutor Editor Mavuto led evidence from Academy Bvumai Chinamora who is the Principal Research, Investigations and Monitoring Officer with the Media and Information Commission (MIC). Chinamora, who stated that the MIC's accreditation is valid from January to December of each year, confirmed that Phiri was accredited for 2006. He further confirmed that Phiri enquired and later collected the accreditation form but alleged that he never submitted the application for this year.

Under cross-examination, Chinamora was asked whether Tafataona Mahoso the MIC chairman, who contributes a section in The Sunday Mail, Nathaniel Manheru who writes for The Herald every Saturday, Goodwills Masimirembwa who contributes regularly to The Herald and the Sunday Mail and Vote Muza who writes a legal section in The Financial Gazette are accredited as journalists. He confirmed that all the four are not accredited.

Chinamora who alleged that Phiri is employed by The Zimbabwean was asked to produce Phiri's contract of employment but failed to do so.

Chinamora who stated that the MIC did not have the register of applications for accreditation forms confirmed that the MIC had not yet completed processing applications for the 2007 accreditation year, stating that the outstanding applications were only a few from rural areas such as Mberengwa and Gokwe. He, however, admitted that some journalists from Harare had submitted their applications for accreditation forms but were still to be accredited.

The trial continues on 28 August 2007 when the state is expected to call a detective Inspector Rangwani who was one of the arresting officers.

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