As the world marked Press Freedom Day on Thursday, news emerged that two independent journalists have been arrested in Zimbabwe.
NewsDay Editor Wisdom Mdzungairi and reporter Desmond Chingarande were arrested and charged on Wednesday with contravening a section of the Children’s Act, their lawyer said. They were released on the same day and told to wait for police to tell them when they’re ready to take them to court.
“They were formally charged for contravening Section 5, Subsection 5 of the Children’s Act. It’s alleged that they published or revealed the identity of a child in one of their reports that they made some time ago,” Jeremiah Bamu told News24.
Bamu said the journalists deny the charges.
“They did not commit an offence and we really do not know why the police or the state really went that far to arrest them,” the lawyer said, adding that the issue could have been handled by Zimbabwe’s voluntary media council or the state-run media commission.
Girl ‘held hostage’
Reports say the article the police objected to was one published by the paper last month that named a 16-year-old girl who was allegedly kidnapped and held in a hotel room for three days by a prominent DJ with a local radio station.
There had been hopes Zimbabwe’s media would be a lot freer under the new government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa. However, strict press laws brought in by his predecessor Robert Mugabe remain in force, and critics say state-run media remains biased in favour of the ruling party.