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The Standard journalists arrested
MISA-Zimbabwe
June 30, 2011

Police on 29 June 2011, arrested The Standard journalist Patience Nyangobe, and editor Nevanji Madanhire along with Alpha Media Group Human Resources Manager Loud Ramakgapola who is representing the company.

The trio was arrested in connection with the publication of a story carried in their weekly edition of June 26 - July 2, 2011 titled; "MDC-T fears for missing Timba".

They are being charged with criminal defamation as enshrined under section 96 of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act and section 31 which criminalises the publishing or communication of false statements prejudicial to the State and statements "undermining public confidence in a law enforcement agency the Prison Service or the Defence Forces of Zimbabwe" as contained under section 31(a) (iii) of the same law.

This charge arises from the fact that the story says Timba was arrested by police officers who included "the notorious Chrispen Makedenge" when the latter was allegedly not present and involved in the arrest.

However Nyangobe and Ramakgapola were released last night while Madanhire spent the night at the Harare Central Police Station.

MISA Zimbabwe position

MISA Zimbabwe deplores the use of criminal defamation laws as they are a major obstacle to freedom of expression. This is in light of the fact that there is the option of civil defamation remedies.

The use of criminal defamation laws unnecessarily censures journalists in their work and induces self-censorship, thereby restricting the exercise of the right to freedom of expression.

If indeed the information complained of is false then there are alternative remedies open to the police like filing a complaint with the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) or demanding a retraction rather than arresting journalists. Demanding a retraction is more effective in any event as it has a more direct impact on the integrity or reputation of the concerned journalist or media house.

It is therefore our humble position that the pursuit of criminal defamation is tantamount to criminalizing freedom of expression as guaranteed in the Constitution of Zimbabwe under section 20.

Visit the MISA-Zimbabwe fact sheet

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