In Zimbabwe, two South African journalists face charges

New York, April 9, 2008—The Committee to Protect Journalists called today for charges to be dropped against South African journalists Sipho Moses Maseko and Abdulla Ismail Gaibbe and their passports returned. The case was tossed out once by a court magistrate but charges were later reinstated.

The men, working for the South African satellite company GlobeCast, were arrested on March 27 at the Harare International Conference Center, where they were broadcasting a press conference given by the minister of information, according to news reports and the Media Institute of Southern Africa.

Maseko, a freelance cameraman, and Gaibbe, a satellite technician, were detained on charges of practicing journalism without accreditation, according to GlobeCast CEO Alan Hird

On Friday, Magistrate Stephen Musoni ordered authorities to release the men and return their passports after state prosecutors did not show up for court hearings in the case, said defense lawyer Wilbert Mandinde. Police reinstated the charges within hours—adding a count of obstruction of justice—but the men have remained free on bail. They are due in court again this week.

Maseko was taken to St. Anne’s Hospital in Harare on Sunday for treatment related to diabetes and high blood pressure.

The New York Times reporter Barry Bearak faces trial tomorrow for practicing journalism without accreditation. A British national faces similar charges.
Zimbabwe’s restrictive journalist accreditation law, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, has been used to block international and some local reporters from covering the elections, CPJ reported on March 27. Since 2005, Zimbabwean authorities have used the accreditation law six times to jail foreign journalists and censor coverage.

Click here for a detailed history on Zimbabwe’s repression of foreign journalists since 2000.