Charges dropped against journalist

New York, May 7, 2002—A judge today dismissed charges of “abusing journalistic privileges” and “publishing false information” against Collin Chiwanza, reporter for the independent Daily News, citing lack of evidence.

Chiwanza appeared in court with fellow Daily News journalist Lloyd Mudiwa and Andrew Meldrum, a U.S. citizen who is the Zimbabwe correspondent for the London-based The Guardian newspaper. Mudiwa and Meldrum, who face the same charges, will remain free until their trial, which is scheduled for May 22.

The three journalists were arrested last week after the Daily News and The Guardian published articles claiming that supporters of the ruling ZANU-PF party had beheaded an opposition party supporter. The report was later discovered to be untrue, and both papers printed retractions.

The journalists were released on May 2 and charged under the draconian Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, a law passed shortly after President Robert Mugabe’s controversial March 15 re-election.

Another journalist arrested
Police yesterday arrested Pius Wakatama, another Daily News journalist, at his home on the outskirts of the capital, Harare. Wakatama is charged with two counts of publishing false information and abusing journalistic privilege under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

The charges stem from an article Wakatama wrote for the May 4 edition of the Daily News in which he criticized the eviction of a white farming family from their property and mentioned the story about the beheading of the opposition supporter.

Wakatama received a “warn and caution” statement before being released.

Wakatama is the eighth journalist to be arrested under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act since it was passed.

Local sources also confirmed today that the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is calling for an investigation of Stephen Ndolvu, editor of the state-owned Chronicle newspaper, whom the party accuses of publishing false information under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

The MDC, which vigorously criticized the new law before Parliament passed it, was apparently angered by a Chronicle article alleging that the party was planning to destroy government buildings and install their leader in a coup against Mugabe’s government.