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Human rights groups slam continued detention of journalists

Zimbabwean human rights groups have described the arrest and detention of a news editor and his reporter as a “new era” in the government’s “well-known disregard of the rule of law”, the Zimbabwean ‘Financial Gazette’ wrote on Thursday.

Despite several High Court orders calling for the immediate release of Mark Chavunduka, editor of the independent ‘Standard’ newspaper, the authorities have failed to comply. Chavunduka was arrested earlier this month after his newspaper published a report on an alleged military coup attempt against the government of President Robert Mugabe.

On Tuesday, a third High Court order was issued ordering Defence Minister Moven Mahachi, defence ministry Permanent Secretary Job Whabira and an army officer to present the journalist before the court, which they failed to do. Whabira was quoted at the weekend as saying: “The judge cannot direct us...anyone who meddles with military matters is subject to military matters.”

The whereabouts of Chavunduka and ‘Standard’ reporter Ray Choto who wrote the article were unknown, the ‘Financial Gazette’ said. The ‘Standard’s’ managing editor Clive Wilson said he suspected the two men were being interrogated by the military.

The ‘Financial Gazette’ said the continued detention of the two journalists would go down in the annals of Zimbabwe’s history as the “most contemptuous, flagrant and iniquitous challenge by the military - in essence the government - to the rule of law”.

“What Zimbabweans are witnessing today is not just a crude assault on lawful constitutional order, but an unbridled attempt to usurp the powers of the judiciary by the executive, aided by the military, in a grave harbinger of worse things to come,” it said.

Mahachi has strongly denied the coup story, describing the allegations as the work of Zimbabwe’s enemies who want to bring down the government.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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