Three journalists from The Sunday Mail, arrested Monday for publishing an article alleging a senior police officer was involved in poaching activities, posted $100 bail each Wednesday after the State failed to provide compelling reasons to keep them in custody.
In granting them bail, Magistrate Tendai Mahwe ordered Sunday Mail editor, Mabasa Sasa, Investigations Editor Brian Chitemba and reporter Tinashe Farawo, not to interfere with police investigations, reside at their recorded home addresses and report to the police once week until 27 November when their case will be heard.
Their lawyer, James Muzangaza, was elated by the Magistrate’s ruling to free his clients on bail.
“We are obviously excited by the ruling. We were confident that they were going to be granted bail because the charges, as laid out by the State, were wishy washy,” said Muzangaza.
He said h’s proceeding to challenge the constitutionality of the Criminal Law Codification Act, under which the journalists were charged.
MISA-Zimbabwe national chairman, Kumbirai Mafunda, attended the hearing. He says the ruling confirms what the media watchdog has always said were frivolous charges being brought against journalists by the state.
“This goes to confirm what we had said as MISA-Zimbabwe that this was just persecution of these journalists,” said Mafunda. “We are happy about the ruling, especially when we now have a trend developing of journalists being targeted for doing their work.”
National Assembly media and information portfolio committee member, Nelson Chamisa, said it is sad that journalism profession in the country is being criminilised.
The three journalists’ case attracted the attention of colleagues from both the private and public media who thronged the courts Monday in solidarity.
Herald Editor Ceaser Zvayi and senior editors from the Zimpapers group and their reporters, Daily News Editor, Stanely Gama and dozens of reporters from various newspapers, local and international organizations were also in attendance as were MISA officials and Zimbabwe Union of Journalists executive members.
Meanwhile, another Zimpapers Editor, Takunda Mawodza, was yesterday arrested for allegedly asking for a bribe from wealthy businessman Sam Levy. Mawodza was investigating a story in which he alleged Levy was financially bankrolling former Vice President Joice Mujuru’s People First.