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Zimbabwe media arrests after article links top cop to elephant poaching

By Nqobile Bhebhe
Posted on Wednesday, 4 November 2015 14:54

Such arrests and harassments have usually been a preserve of the more critical private media, rather than public media, which kowtows to the official line.

We urge the police to investigate and not to arrest in order to investigate

Sunday Mail editor, Mabasa Sasa, investigations editor, Brian Chitemba and reporter Tinashe Farawo were nabbed on Monday after publishing a story linking a top cop to the killing of more than 55 elephants in the Hwange National Park, 800 kilometres southeast of the capital, Harare.

Police on Tuesday charged the three Sunday Mail journalists for publishing “falsehoods”. The arrest has sparked outraged among media organisations.

The Zimbabwe National Editors Forum (Zinef) condemned the arrests, saying they were in violation of the constitution. “This is a serious violation of Section 61 and 62 of the constitution, which guarantee press freedom and the protection of sources,” the forum said.

“We urge the police to investigate and not to arrest in order to investigate. It is unhelpful and smacks of repression to arrest editors and journalists on issues that are not criminal but is part of their legitimate work, in this particular case, to expose the rot in our society.”

The Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) urged police to conduct internal investigations.

“Why are they arresting the messengers? Why not conduct investigations to see which officials are involved? The issue of elephant poaching is of national importance. It was their right as journalists to expose the scandal. We condemn these acts of harassment. Police should not be seen anywhere near the newsroom,” ZUJ secretary-general, Foster Dongozi said.

Zimbabwe Media Commission (VMZC) executive director Loughty Dube weighed in and condemned the arrests. “The trio’s arrest is outrageous and unacceptable in a country that purports to uphold freedom of expression and freedom of the media,” he said.

Amnesty International said the detention of the three journalists was a shocking attempt to threaten freedom of the press and called for their immediate release.

On Tuesday, Herald assistant news editor, Takunda Maodza was arrested on accusations he solicited for a bribe.

Maodza was reportedly investigating business links of former Vice President Joice Mujuru, who was expelled from President Robert Mugabe’s ruling party last year, the Herald said Wednesday.

He is yet to be charged.

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