New York, July 1, 2011–Detectives today charged private weekly Standard Editor Nevanji Madanhire, reporter Patience Nyangove, and Human Resource Manager Loud Ramakgapola with criminal defamation. The three were arrested at the newspaper’s offices in Harare Wednesday morning and later released, local journalists told CPJ.
Defense lawyer Linda Cook said in a statement that the police charged them with criminal defamation against the head of the Harare Central Police Station’s Law and Order unit for “publication of false statements prejudicial to the state” and “communicating statements that undermine public confidence in law enforcement agents.”
In the story, Nyangove wrote that police, including “the notorious Chrispen Makedenge” had arrested Timba. Chief Superintendent Chrispen Makedenge has been identified by local journalists as having illegally detained freelance photojournalist Andrison Manyere and human rights activist Justina Makoko in 2008. Both journalists are now free, and Makedenge has not publicly commented on the case. Makedenge denies arresting Timba.
“This is nothing but another attempt by the Zimbabwean authorities to criminalize journalism and cow reporters into self-censorship,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “All charges should be dropped immediately.”
Secretary General Foster Dongoz of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists said he believes the arrests are an intimidation tactic to censor the press ahead of this year’s elections at an as-yet unknown date, according to wire reports.
The three are expected to return to the courtroom on July 29, Madanhire told CPJ. Madanhire and Nyangove have been ordered to make weekly visits to the police prior to the next hearing.
In November, police arrested Standard reporter Nqobani Ndlovu on criminal defamation charges in relation to an article concerning the cancellation of police promotion examinations, according to local journalists. The case against Ndlovu is still pending.