On January 18, 2023, police in the southeastern Zimbabwe city of Masvingo arrested journalist Garikai Mafirakureva, according to media reports, a statement by the Zimbabwean chapter of the regional press freedom group Media Institute of Southern Africa, and Mafirakureva, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.
Authorities charged Mafirakureva, editor of the Masvingo Mirror newspaper, with publishing or communicating false information prejudicial to the state, according to those sources.
Officers with the Criminal Investigations Department summoned Mafirakureva and questioned him for about two hours in the presence of his lawyer, the journalist told CPJ. He said they asked him about a story published the previous day about alleged connections between CID officers to two suspects in a recent murder.
“They said the story was in bad taste and would tarnish the image of the police service,” Mafirakureva told CPJ. “They felt we shouldn’t have written that story at all or at least we shouldn’t have mentioned the police in it. But we’re journalists.”
The CID officers threatened to arrest Mafirakureva and hold him until he revealed the story’s source, which he refused to do. Mafirakureva told CPJ that the officers did not inspect his phone “because I am not the one who wrote the story and also probably because I was with my lawyer.”
Authorities released him after about two hours, but the CID summoned Mafirakureva again later that day, where they took the journalist’s statement and formally charged and arrested him, according to Mafirakureva and the MISA statement.
Publishing false information can carry up to two years in prison and a fine of up to 1.6 million Zimbabwe dollars (US$4,420), according to the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act and the scale of fines.
During his second meeting with the CID, officers threatened to lock Mafirakureva up for the night but again released him after about two hours, the journalist told CPJ.
On January 23, Mafirakureva appeared in the Masvingo Magistrates Court where authorities said they would summon him in the future to continue the case, according to the journalist and his lawyer Martin Mureri, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.
As of March 16, the journalist and his lawyer had not received any summons, they said. Mafirakureva told CPJ that he did not believe the police had any case against him, but referred to the looming summons as a way to “intimidate us.”
When CPJ contacted Masvingo regional police spokesperson Kudakwashe Dhewa via messaging app for comment about the case, he said, “I’m not aware of this. We don’t have that record.” CPJ emailed the national prosecutor’s office for comment but did not receive any response.