Police in the Zimbabwean city of Bulawayo on Wednesday arrested a reporter for the weekly Standard newspaper in connection with an article saying retired police officers and liberation war veterans have been recruited to fill vacant positions in the national police force and direct operations during elections expected in 2011.
The report by journalist Nqobani Ndlovu said exams for promotion in the Zimbabwe Republic Police were scrapped to accommodate the retirees and veterans. Police have disputed the story and charged Ndlovu with criminal defamation.
Authorities detained the Standard’s Bulawayo bureau chief, Dumisani Sibanda, Tuesday, released him after questioning. Police then moved in on Wednesday and arrested Ndlovu in the Standard offices in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second-largest city.
Ndlovu's lawyer, Josphat Tshuma, told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that the reporter will stand by his story in court, where he was due to appear on Thursday.
"The police were given the opportunity to refute the story at the time it was written but they did not. So my client is standing by his report," Tshuma said.
Nhlanhla Ngwenya, director of the Media Institute of Southern Africa in Zimbabwe said Ndlovu's arrest is a harbinger of more trouble for the media as elections approach.
The arrest of Ndlovu closely follows the issuance by police of an arrest warrant for Wilf Mbanga, editor of the British-based weekly The Zimbabwean for allegedly publishing a false report about the 2008 death of a Zimbabwe Electoral Commission official.
Mbanga denies ever publishing such a story in his newspaper.