LAWYERS representing opposition leader Arthur Mutambara this week told a Harare magistrate that they will approach the Supreme Court to challenge the state for selectively applying the law and breaching Sadc guidelines on freedom of expression and the media.
Mutambaraâ€™s lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, gave the notice on Tuesday when her client appeared in court facing charges of publishing falsehoods and contempt of court arising from an opinion piece he wrote for the Standard newspaper in April.
The robotics professor is being jointly charged with the Standard editor Davison Maruziva and Iden Wetherell, a director of Zimbabwe Independent Publishers â€” the owners of the weekly.
Mutambara in the article accused President Robert Mugabe of running down Zimbabweâ€™s economy and charged that state security forces had committed human rights abuses.
Mtetwa said the prosecution of Mutambara and his co-accused was a clear violation of the Sadc guidelines on freedom of expression and the media.
She said: “We will be challenging the basis of remand in line with the Sadc guidelines. We want the matter referred to the Sadc Tribunal to see if Zimbabwe is not breaching Sadc guidelines on freedom of expression and freedom of the media.”
Mtetwa accused the state of selectively applying the law by arresting Mutambara, Maruziva and Wetherell while the state-owned media was being given the leeway to publish hate speech and inciteful language.
Mtetwa argued that no-one from the public media had been charged to date.
She added that the stateâ€™s actions were a violation of Section 23 of the Zimbabwe Constitution.
Section 23 of the Constitution provides for protection from discrimination.
It reads: “A law shall be regarded as making a provision that is discriminatory and a person shall be regarded as having been treated in a discriminatory manner if, as a result of that law or treatment, persons of a particular description by race, tribe, place of origin, political opinions, colour or creed are prejudiced.”
The trial of Mutambara, Maruziva and Wetherell failed to commence on Tuesday because Tawanda Zvekare, the prosecutor handling the case, was out of town. Regional magistrate Morgen Nemadire had to postpone the matter to July 10.
Meanwhile, Reporters Without Borders wrote to the UN Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs Haile Menkerios, currently in Zimbabwe, furnishing him with information on the state of the media in the country.
The letter reads: “In view of your intention to visit Harare from 16 to 20 June, ahead of the June 27 presidential election run off, Reporters Without Borders would like to brief you about the governmentâ€™s serious press freedom violations and the climate of fear reigning among journalists and human rights activists.”
By Lucia Makamure