Journalist jailed, threatened with charges

New York, January 20, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists today condemned the detention of Zimbabwean journalist Sydney Saize who has been held since Wednesday in the eastern town of Mutare. Police accused Saize of working without accreditation and filing a “false” story for the U.S.-funded radio Voice of America, according to the Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA) and a local CPJ source. He has not been charged.

Police allege that Saize filed a false story for Studio 7, the Zimbabwe service of VOA, alleging that militants of the ruling ZANU-PF party had beaten teachers in Mutare, according to MISA. Saize, who worked for the now banned Harare-based Daily News, faces one charge under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) of practicing journalism without a license which carries a prison term of two years. He could also be charged under the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) with publishing a falsehood, which carries a penalty of five years in jail.

“It is outrageous that police should detain Sydney Saize for reporting on a matter of public interest,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “He should be released immediately and these ridiculous allegations dismissed.”

Saize was expected to appear in court today, but the sources quoted his lawyer, Innocent Gonese, as saying the police were being “difficult.” Senior police officers told Gonese they had received orders from the capital, Harare, not to take Saize to court, according to MISA. The Committee to Protect Journalists was unable to reach Gonese directly.

Saize has already been charged under AIPPA, along with a group of other Daily News journalists, with working illegally for the paper before it was shut in September 2003. One of the journalists, Kelvin Jakachira, was tried and acquitted in 2005, on the basis that he had applied for accreditation but had never received a reply from the government controlled Media and Information Commission.