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Rights groups intensify protest over media arrests

International human rights groups and journalists’ organisations on Wednesday intensified their protests at the detention of journalists in Zimbabwe.

Amnesty International said it feared for the safety of the two journalists of the ‘Zimbabwe Mirror’ who were detained on Sunday over a story last October on the death of a Zimbabwean soldier in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The two appeared in court on Tuesday and were released on bail.

Amnesty said in a statement it believed the journalists had been detained for exercising their right to freedom of expression.
The international press watchdog, Reporters sans Frontiers (RSF) and the International Union of Journalists also expressed “outrage” at the arrests of the newspaper’s reporter Grace Kwinjeh, and its publisher, Ibbo Mandaza. The former editor, Farai Mungazi and the former managing editor, Fernando Goncalves, were also briefly detained at the weekend.

Sources in the Zimbabwean media told IRIN that Kwinjeh and Mandaza appeared in a Harare magistrate’s court on Tuesday charged under the Law and Order Maintenance Act. They were both released on bail and will appear in the High Court on 1 March. The charge relates to a British colonial era law still on the statutes which prohibits the publishing of a “false report likely to cause fear, alarm, or despondency” among the public.

Meanwhile, the ‘Zimbabwe Independent’ reported that the Immigration Department of Zimbabwe had demanded that local and foreign journalists working for the foreign media should submit their work permits and passports for verification.

Media sources said the move was widely seen as part of the current crackdown on the press by the government of President Robert Mugabe. At least three foreign correspondents based in Zimbabwe told ‘The Independent’ that they had received calls from officials of the Immigration Department demanding that they submit their work permits and passports for scrutiny.

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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