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Former ZBC official pleads not guilty to charges of facilitating unaccredited journalist's access to diamond mine fields; his trial postponed

(MISA/IFEX) - On 23 April 2008, the trial of the former Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) Manicaland bureau chief, Andrew Neshamba, who is accused of contravening the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, was postponed to 2 June, because the trial magistrate was not feeling well.

Neshamba has pleaded not guilty to a charge of contravening Section 174(1) (a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (Criminal Abuse of Duty as Public Officers).

Allegations against Neshamba are that on 4 February 2007 he and William Gumbo facilitated the entry of Peter Moyo, an unaccredited journalist of South African-based E-TV, into the Chiadzwa diamond fields in Marange where he shot video footage of the mine fields.

Moyo was convicted on his own plea for contravening Section 83 (1) of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), which deals with practicing journalism without accreditation.

Moyo was arrested, together with ZBC cameraperson William Gumbo, in the eastern border town of Mutare after they were found in possession of filming equipment which they were accused of using to cover illegal diamond mining activities in Marange Village in Manicaland Province.

In a separate development, a Harare lawyer representing freelance journalist Frank Chikowore, who is charged with public violence, filed an urgent High Court application on 23 April for him to be granted bail denied by the Magistrates Courts.

On 22 April, Magistrate Olivia Mariga denied Chikowore and his co-accused bail when they appeared before her, saying the political climate in the country is still volatile and as such the accused persons may continue to incite violence. Chikowore and six other co-accused, among them opposition MDC director of information and publicity Luke Tamborinyoka, were remanded in custody to 5 May 2008.

However, in his application to the High Court, Chikowore's lawyer, Harrison Nkomo, filed an urgent High Court Application arguing that the case against Chikowore is weak as the state has failed to produce evidence implicating the accused. He also stated that if granted bail, Chikowore would not abscond as he is a professional journalist who is prepared to stand trial and clear his name.

One of the allegations is that the accused waylaid and torched a bus in Harare's suburb of Warren Park.

According to his lawyer, who was engaged by MISA-Zimbabwe under its Media Defence Fund facility, the police initially wanted to charge Chikowore with contravening the repressive AIPPA, allegedly by practicing journalism without accreditation.

However, Chikowore is duly accredited with the state-controlled Media and Information Commission (MIC) and was similarly accredited by the Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) to cover the elections held on 29 March.

Nkomo said the police had also contemplated charging Chikowore with malicious injury to property as well as attempted murder before settling for the charge of public violence.

*Meanwhile, in another, unrelated development, hearings into the application to be licensed by Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), publishers of the banned "Daily News" and "Daily News on Sunday," commenced before a special committee of the state-controlled Media and Information Commission (MIC) on 21 April.

The ANZ, represented by its lawyers and acting chief executive officer, made representations before the committee pending a ruling on the application in terms of the AIPPA.

The "Daily News" and "Daily News on Sunday" were banned in September 2003 by the MIC for publishing without an operating licence, required under the terms of the AIPPA.

Updates the Neshamba and Gumbo case: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/82095

For further information on the Moyo case, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/81578

For further information the Chikowore case, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/92976

For further information on the Tamborinyoka case, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/92940

For further information on the "Daily News" and "Daily News on Sunday" case, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/87669

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