In Zimbabwe, editor jailed, media lawyer hospitalized in custody, photographer set free

New York, May 8, 2008—Zimbabwean police arrested a top newspaper editor today and released a photographer jailed since Monday, according to local journalists and news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists remains concerned about the well-being of a leading media lawyer following reports of his hospitalization after his arrest on Wednesday.

Davison Maruziva, deputy editor of the private Harare-based weekly The Standard, one of a handful of independent newspapers still publishing in Zimbabwe, remained in police custody late today after he was picked up by plainclothes officers of the Zimbabwean police’s Law and Order unit early this morning at his office, the newspaper’s publisher, Raphael Khumalo, told CPJ.

Maruziva is accused of “publishing false statements prejudicial to the state and contempt of court” in connection with The Standard’s April 20 publication of a column by Arthur Mutambara, leader of a breakaway faction of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, according to Khumalo. Maruziwa was expected to be taken to court on Friday, Khumalo said.

“Davison Maruziwa should not be in prison for doing his job,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “His arrest highlights the relentless efforts by the Zimbabwean government to criminalize and intimidate independent journalists with a battery of repressive laws. We urge the authorities to drop these charges and release our colleague immediately. We also ask for the immediate release of Harrison Nkomo.”

Lawyer Harrison Nkomo was admitted to a government hospital today for high blood pressure, but remained in stable condition under police guard, his lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, told CPJ. Nkomo was arrested at his office on Wednesday for allegedly “undermining the authority or insulting the president, in connection with purported remarks he made to government prosecutor Michael Mugabe shortly before a court hearing in the case of freelance journalist Frank Chikowore on Friday.

In a separate development, Reuters reported that one of its photographers, Howard Burditt, a Zimbabwean national, was released on bail today after three days in police custody. Burditt was detained on Monday for allegedly using a satellite phone to send pictures, according to a company statement. Reuters remains one of the few major Western media outlets with a fully accredited bureau in Harare.

Several journalists, both foreign and domestic, have been jailed while covering the political stalemate and violence following Zimbabwe’s contested March 29 elections.