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used to "criminalise journalism", minister
May 12, 2009
A senior Zimbabwean government
official has admitted that laws passed by the previous administration
were still being used to "criminalise journalism" and
needed to be changed, after two journalists more were arrested earlier
are really unfortunate, in the sense that we still have clauses
in our statutes which are used to arrest journalists and criminalise
journalism, and hence infringe on media freedom and freedom of expression,"
Jameson Timba, the deputy minister of media, information and publicity,
told IRIN. Timba is from the main faction of the Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) the former opposition party.
Vincent Kahiya, editor
of the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper, and Constantine Chimakure,
the newspaper's news editor, were arrested on 11 May for publishing
an article that fingered intelligence and police officers allegedly
involved in the abduction of journalist and human rights activist,
Jestina Mukoko, and members of the MDC in late 2008.
Kahiya and Chimakure
were released on bail on 12 May, but a police spokesperson was quoted
in the media as saying that the journalists had sought to "undermine
public confidence in law enforcement and security agents".
Dumisani Muleya, a senior
political reporter, told IRIN: "Journalists continue to be
harassed and to work in a repressive environment, which means nothing
has really changed since the inclusive government was formed almost
100 days ago."
Timba underlined the
need to review existing media laws, which had been the objective
of a conference held on 9 May. However, the gathering was boycotted
by media unions after Mukoko and freelance journalist Andrison Manyere
were arrested for the second time last week. Mukoko has since been
Under the Global
Political Agreement signed by Zimbabwe's three main political
parties in September 2008, which underpins the unity government,
the government committed itself to immediately start processing
applications for the registration of media houses, but not much
has happened so far.
Two other journalists,
the editor of the government-controlled The Sunday News, Brezhnev
Malaba, and journalist Nduduzo Tshuma, are also expected to appear
in court soon to face criminal defamation charges, after naming
senior police officers allegedly involved in a grain distribution
scandal in a report published in 2008.
The media reform conference,
which recommended that the draconian media laws be repealed, and
that parliament control the public media, was overshadowed by the
arrest of the journalists.
Union of Journalists commented: "The irony is that the
manhunt for journalists at The Zimbabwe Independent was launched
on the day" that the conference on media law reform got underway.
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