Arrested Zimbabwean journalist Nqobani Ndlovu was to remain behind bars this weekend following refusal on Friday of his application for bail pending adjudication of charges that he defamed the national police force in an article about pre-election recruitment.
Ndlovu, based in Bulawayo, the country's second largest city, was transferred to court detention from the custody of police, however, sources said.
A journalist for the Standard weekly newspaper, a sister publication to NewsDay, a new national daily newspaper, Ndlovu was arrested after reporting that instead of filling posts through a competitive exam which was scheduled but canceled, the Zimbabwe Republic Police was recalling retired officers and recruiting pro-ZANU-PF war veterans.
Chief Superintendent Oliver Mandipaka issued a statement saying the Zimbabwe Republic Police was "dismayed, perturbed and disgusted" by what it called "blatant and venomous lies" carried by the Standard newspaper.
Mandipaka said the national police force has not recalled any retired police officers or engaged liberation war veterans to fill vacancies as stated in the article.
Attorney Josphat Tshuma told VOA Studio 7 reporter Tatenda Gumbo that appeals in the Bulawayo magistrate's court for Ndlovu’s release were denied. He said he is petitioning the High Court to issue a ruling ordering Ndlovu's release on bail.
Internationally, the Norwegian Union of Journalists protested the arrest of the journalist and called for his immediate release. NUJ executive committee member Eva Stabell said such police actions curtail the freedom of expression in Zimbabwe.
Elsewhere, media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders called for the withdrawal of the proposed General Law Amendment Bill which allowing the government to block public access to official documents including judicial rulings, new legislation and public records.
Commenting on the Ndlovu arrest and similar cases, Reporters Without Borders Editor Ambroise Pierre said that with an election expected some time next year, intimidation and detention of journalists as well as activists can be expected to rise.
Youth Initiative for Democracy Director Sidney Chisi told VOA reporter Patience Rusere that rising violence in rural areas, an army recruitment drive, increased harrassment of journalists and activists points to an election at least as violent as the 2008 poll.