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Three foreign media workers reportedly employed by Sky News arrested, equipment seized; police hunting for other journalists

(MISA/IFEX) - Police in Esigodini in the province of Matabeleland in southern Zimbabwe have arrested three media workers reportedly employed by Sky News, a UK-based cable and satellite channel, which is among the foreign news organisations banned from reporting in Zimbabwe. The journalists were arrested on 23 May 2008. They were still in police custody five days later following an application on 28 May for further detention by police in Esigodini.

The three media workers, believed to be South Africans, have yet to be charged. They are likely to faces charges under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) following their arrest and the confiscation of their broadcasting equipment, which included satellite dishes, cell phones, cameras and the VW Kombi they were travelling in.

The names of the three journalists are still to be ascertained. In an interview with the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), the police spokesperson in Esigodini said the three were working with other journalists and were broadcasting from an industrial warehouse in Zimbabwe's second largest city, Bulawayo. The police said they are on the manhunt for the other journalists. The arrested media workers are detained at the Esigodini police station. The ZBC paraded the confiscated equipment on national television on 27 May.

In terms of the Zimbabwean Constitution, any person who is arrested by the police should appear before a magistrate as soon as possible, but within 48 hours of the arrest. The arrest of the three journalists coincided with a weekend followed by a public holiday on 26 May. The three consecutive days were therefore not counted in computation of the 48-hour period.
Bulawayo lawyer Tavengwa Hara is representing the trio.

Sky News, BBC and CNN are among the foreign news organisations banned from reporting in Zimbabwe.

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