A HARARE magistrate yesterday set June 16 as the trial date for Zimbabwe Independent editor Vincent Kahiya and news editor Constantine Chimakure on allegations of publishing falsehoods prejudicial to the state and likely to undermine public confidence in the security forces.
Magistrate Catherine Chimanda also waived reporting conditions for the two scribes after their lawyer Innocent Chagonda applied for their removal saying he needed time to prepare the defence.
The journalists were at their initial remand on May 12 granted US$200 bail each and ordered to report every Friday at Harare Central Police Stationâ€™s Law and Order section.
Chagonda yesterday did not pursue an application for refusal of further remand telling the court that the investigations officer in the case had failed to turn up at the court for unknown reasons.
The lawyer said he would make the application on June 16.
The state pledged to furnish the defence team with relevant court documents on June 1.
Kahiya and Chimakure are jointly charged with the company, which is represented by Michael Curling.
The journalists are accused of writing, editing and publishing two stories entitled â€œActivists abductors namedâ€ and â€œCIO, police role in activists abduction revealedâ€ in the newspaperâ€™s edition of May 8, which the state felt was wholly or materially false.
It is the state case that Chimakure stated in an article on the front page of the Independent that the Attorney-Generalâ€™s office had revealed names of the abductors of human rights and MDC-T activists who went missing last year.
On page two of the same newspaper, the state alleged, Chimakure allegedly wrote that notices of indictment for trial served on some of the activists recently revealed the role the CIO and the police played when activists were reported missing last year.
According to the state, the AGâ€™s office compiled the list of the officers who were due to testify in the trials, and not the abductors.
The arrest of Kahiya and Chimakure sparked a barrage of criticism on the local and international scene.
Meanwhile, lawyers representing human rights attorney Alec Muchadehama, who was arrested on allegations of obstruction of justice last week, yesterday applied for a refusal of further remand before the same magistrate.
Beatrice Mtetwa, Muchadehamaâ€™s lawyer, also made an application asking the Attorney-General Johannes Tomana to recuse himself from the case because he was the â€œcomplainant and prosecutorâ€.
Mtetwa said Tomana should recuse himself to ensure a free, competent and professional trial.
Muchadehama was arrested last week by three officers from the Law and Order Section of the police at the Harare Magistratesâ€™ Courts while processing release orders for freelance photojournalist Shadreck Manyere, former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangiraiâ€™s aide Gandhi Mudzingwa, and MDC-T security director Kisimusi Dhlamini who had been granted bail by the High Court.
He was arrested for alleged improper release of Manyere from Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison and Mudzingwa and Dhlamini under hospital detention at the Avenues Clinic on April 17.
lIn an unrelated development, Zimbabwean broadcast journalist and filmmaker Hopewell Chinâ€™ono has won a prestigious scholarship to study at Harvard University in the United States for a year starting from August.
The journalist won the 2009 Nieman Fellowship to read politics, economics and journalism at Harvard University which is rated by many as the best university in the world competing with Britainâ€™s Oxford for the title.
Chinâ€™ono becomes the second Zimbabwean to win the scholarship after Geoff Nyarota, the former editor of the banned Daily News newspaper.
Other famous names to go to Harvard are the late Zimbabwean politician and lawyer Eddison Zvobgo and the current US president Barack Obama.
Chinâ€™ono has won several professional awards including the CNN African Journalist of the year award in 2008 and The Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation Award for Excellence in HIV and Aids Reporting in Africa.
He was also awarded the Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Award in 2007 for his internationally acclaimed documentary film Pain in my Heart, which was broadcast in 44 countries including Britain on Sky Digital, South Africa on e.tvâ€™s acclaimed 3rd Degree, and CNN International. â€”Staff Writer.