MISA-Zimbabwe condemns the defamation charges levelled against provincial state-controlled Chronicle editor, Brezhnev Malaba and reporter, Nduduzo Tshuma over an article exposing a maize scandal at the Grain Marketing Board (GMB), published in the paper in February.
The article titled, â€œMillers call on Government to overhaul GMBâ€, alleged that police were involved in the scandal in which tonnes of maize were sold on the black market and in neighbouring Zambia.
The reporters were initially arrested and made to sign a warned and cautioned statement by police in Bulawayo on March 17; and then appeared in court, onÂ April 7.
Misa-Zimbabwe notes that charges of criminal defamation against journalists remain undemocratic and inimical to freedom of expression. It is our considered view that where there are allegations of the publication of falsehoods against a journalist or media house, recourse should be sought through civil law.
Misa-Zimbabwe therefore urges those that allege they were defamed in the article published in the Chronicle to follow the civil route by taking the matter up in relation to civil law procedure. Misa-Zimbabwe is also aware that the journalists are unaware of who exactly the complainant in the matter is, and emphasises in this regard that if by chance it is the police force, then there is an attempt to cause fear.
Misa-Zimbabwe also notes that the harassment, arrests and continued incarceration of journalists in Zimbabwe has continued in spite of the signing of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) by Zanu PF and the two Movement for Democratic Change formations that culminated in the transitional inclusive government.
Cases that quickly come to mind are the continuing joint case of the Standard newspaper, its editor, Davison Maruziva and Movement for Democratic Change faction leader, Professor Arthur Mutambara, charged with contravening the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act over an article published in the paper in 2008, the continued incarceration of freelance photographer, Shadreck Anderson Manyere abducted onÂ December 13 2008 only to appear in court onÂ December 24 2008 and the recent abduction of freelance journalist, Kudzanayi Musengi in Gweru onÂ March 31.
Article 19 of the GPA recognises the importance of the right to freedom of expression and the role played by a free media in a multi-party democracy.
It is therefore important that journalists are allowed to continue their professional duties without hindrance.