New York, May 22, 2002—Geoff Nyarota, editor-in-chief of Zimbabwe’s Daily News and a 2001 CPJ International Press Freedom Award winner, was arrested by police on Monday, May 20, and charged with “publishing falsehoods.” He was released after five hours of questioning.
If found guilty, he faces a fine of up to Z$100,000 (US$ 1,876) or a two-year jail term.
Nyarota is the fourth journalist to be arrested for the April 23 story about youths from the ruling ZANU-PF party beheading an opposition supporter in front of her two daughters. That story was later declared inaccurate.
The other journalists arrested for the April 23 story include Andrew Meldrum, a U.S. citizen and the Zimbabwe correspondent for the London-based Guardian newspaper who picked up the story for his paper, and Daily News journalists Lloyd Mudiwa and Collin Chiwanza.
The charges against Chiwanza were dropped due to lack of evidence. But Mudiwa and Meldrum appeared in court today and were told to return on May 30, when a trial date will be announced. Both men are charged under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Bill, which was passed in March, with “abusing journalistic privileges” and “publishing false information.”
In a separate case, Bornwell Chakaodza, editor of the independent weekly Standard, was arrested along with Standard journalists Farai Mutsaka and Fungayi Kanyuchi on May 16 for “publishing falsehoods.”
The arrest stemmed from two articles in the May 12 issue: Kanyuchi alleged that Zimbabwe Republic police officers were having sexual relations with prostitutes as a condition for their release. Mutsaka wrote a front-page story saying that the Zimbabwean government has acquired anti-riot gear and military hardware from Israel.
Chakaodza and Kanyuchi were arrested again on Tuesday, May 21, on fresh charges of publishing obscene photographs. The arrest was in relation to photographs that accompanied the story on prostitutes.
On May 22, police again ordered Chakaodza to report to the station, this time for an article in the May 12 edition of the Standard about personnel changes in the state-owned media.