Journalists Garikai Chaunza and Frank Chikowore were on 22 June 2017 arrested by the police while covering the invasion of Lesbury Farm about 26 km west of Rusape in Manicaland Province.
Chaunza and Chikowore were arrested at the farm around 2 pm and taken to Rusape Police Station where they were detained before being released without charges around 7.30 pm. The police ordered them to delete the pictures of the events they had captured at the farm.
“The officer-in-charge Inspector Nyakwedzwa deleted the pictures from our cameras before we were released,” said Chikowore. The two journalists are duly accredited by the Zimbabwe Media Commission.
Their arrest comes barely two days after police in Harare summoned and questioned the editor of NewsDay Wisdom Mdzungairi and reporter Everson Mushava. This followed the newspaper’s publication of a story arising from a press conference held in February this year by former Zanu PF Mashonaland Central youth leader Godfrey Tsenengamu.
MISA Zimbabwe position
The police have no right to hinder the lawful work of journalists and their right to media freedom as provided for under Section 61 of the Constitution.
These wanton and unlawful arrests of journalists is a serious breach of their constitutionally protected rights and totally unacceptable in a constitutional democracy. Journalism is not a crime and journalists should not be treated as criminal nuisances by the police.
In fact, it is the responsibility of the police to ensure the safety and security of journalists conducting their lawful responsibilities of gathering news and disseminating information in the public interest.
MISA Zimbabwe urges the Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri to investigate and stop these unlawful actions which only serve to tarnish the image of the force and of the country in general.