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Zimbabwe Journalist, Political Activists Face Charges of Photographing Protected State Property

The trial of a Harare-based journalist and two human rights activists accused of illegally taking pictures at a protected area in Zimbabwe opened in the capital on Tuesday with the accused denying the charges leveled against them.

The trial of freelance journalist Edgar Gweshe and two human rights activists, Donald Makuvaza and Charles Chidhakwa, accused of illegally taking pictures at the Harare Remand Prison sometime last year opened at the Harare Magistrates Courts with the defense team calling Gweshe to the witness stand.

Gweshe told the court that he was outside the 100-metre radius prohibited by the law for anyone to take pictures of a protected.

The accused’s lawyer, Tonderai Bhatasara of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights told Studio 7 that Gweshe and the two activists are denying the charges leveled against them.

During cross examination by prosecutor Francisca Mukumbiri, Gweshe told the court that there was no way that pictures of the Harare Remand Prison allegedly found in his flash disk could have been taken by him because he had no computer during the time of his arrest to enable him to transfer the pictures that he took from his camera to the memory stick.

The trial continues tomorrow with other Makuvaza and Chidhakwa expected to take to the witness stand.

Harare-based freelance journalist, Whatmore Makokoba, says media freedom is now under siege in Zimbabwe.

Charges against Gweshe and his co-accused arose after they allegedly took pictures of civil society activists, who had visited the leaders of the National Vendors of Zimbabwe in prison following a blitz on street traders.

Despite the crackdown on vendors, the road-side traders are still playing a cat and mouse game with authorities in the central business district as the vendors say trading is their only source of livelihood given the country’s under-performing economy.

Authorities say the prison where Gweshe and his co-accused took pictures of the civic leaders falls under protected areas.

At the same time, some victims of political violence want the country to craft a law that will ensure that they are rightfully compensated whenever a person is injured in political incidents.

This came out at a Consultative Reference Group meeting in Harare where some activists called for the slashing of the executive functions of the Minister of National Healing, Peace and Reconciliation, who they believe is likely to influence the outcome of the crafting of such law.

The current bill is silent on the compensation of survivors of political violence.

Rashid Mahiya of Heal Zimbabwe Trust said the proposed bill should ensure that victims of political violence are catered for accordingly.

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