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Journalist acquitted of publishing falsehoods, his two colleagues still face charges

(MISA/IFEX) - On 11 June 2008, Kwekwe journalist Blessed Mhlanga was acquitted on charges of contravening Section 80 (1)(a)(2) of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), which prohibits the publication of falsehoods. However, his colleagues Wycliff Nyarota and James Muonwa are facing trial.

The state alleges that on 26 March 2006, the three journalists, or one of them, unlawfully and intentionally published a false story in the "Network Guardian" newspaper, alleging that George Muvhimi and Tatenda Munhanga were caught in a compromising position in a vehicle at Mbizo Shopping Centre in the city of Kwekwe.

Kwekwe Magistrate Oliver Mudzongachiso ruled that none of the state witnesses implicated Mhlanga in the commission of the alleged offence of abuse of journalistic privileges. He therefore found him not guilty of the offence and acquitted him at the closure of the hearing.

The magistrate said, however, that he was convinced that the state had established a prima facie case against Nyarota and Muonwa and ordered that they be put to trial.

Lawyers representing the two journalists, Prayers Chitsa and James Magodora, who are being assisted by MISA-Zimbabwe legal officer Wilbert Mandinde, are considering appealing against the court's going forwards with the charges against Nyarota and Muonwa.

Nyarota and Muonwa are expected back in court on 2 July for the continuation of the trial.

Updates the Mhlanga, Nyarota and Muonwa cases:

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