Zimbabwean editors arrested for story about local businessman
Gama and Goko were arrested after the Daily News published a news article which alleged that Kereke's report on his missing family was a plot used to deceive people. The article said that Kereke did so in a bid to substantiate claims that his life was in danger from a multiplicity of forces, including Governor Gideon Gono - of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe - and unnamed security agents. Kereke is a former advisor to Gono.
Speaking to the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Gama described he and his colleague's arrest as worrisome, but vowed they would continue to tell it like it is, and fulfill their duties without fear.
The story in question was reportedly lifted from New Zimbabwe, an online news service. Kereke says the story is based on falsehoods and could jeopardise the manhunt for his wife and their four year-old daughter. He is claiming US $25 million in a criminal defamation lawsuit.
Kareke further alleges that the Daily News defamed him by publishing a story alleging that he raped a minor; he says the publication had put him on "legal tenterhooks."
Meanwhile, Kudakwashe Matura, a community news activist, was also arrested on 8 October, following a complaint lodged by Sam Mawuwa. Mawuwa alleges that a story about him in a Kariba News newsletter was defamatory.
Matura was taken in for questioning before being detained overnight. A charge of criminal defamation as enshrined under section 96 of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act is being preferred against him.
He appeared in court this afternoon, and was represented by lawyer Tapiwa Muchineripi under the auspices of the Media Lawyers Network. Updates on the outcome of the court section will follow.
The arrests of these journalists proves the criminalisation of journalism in Zimbabwe under the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act and vindicates MISA-Zimbabwe's strident calls for the repealing of the law which infringes on media freedom.
The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights is also on record urging members states, Zimbabwe included, to do away with criminal defamation laws, saying such laws tend to curb citizens' fundamental right to freely communicate.