In Zimbabwe, three journalists investigating elephant poisoning charged with slander

Three journalists from Zimbabwe’s state-owned weekly newspaper Sunday Mail were arrested in the capital, Harare, on November 2, 2015, after the paper published a report about more than 60 elephants being poisoned in Hwange National Park, according to news reports.

Mabasa Sasa, the editor, Brian Chitemba, the investigations editor, and Tinashe Farawo, a reporter, have been charged with slander over a front-page report that alleged officials, including a top police officer, were involved in a syndicate that was using cyanide to poison elephants and sell their tusks, according to the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists and news reports.

The Zimbabwean police have denied the claims, and police spokeswoman Charity Charamba stated that “editors and reporters cannot be allowed to hide behind the privilege of press freedom to peddle falsehoods,” according to reports. Charamba claimed that the allegation made in the piece tarnished the image of the police and had interfered with their investigation into the poaching, according to reports.

In an email to CPJ, the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists said the three journalists were released on bail on November 4, 2015, and are required to check in at a police station once a week. The union said the journalists are next due to appear in court on November 27, 2015.