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Two journalists convicted of publishing "false story"

(MISA/IFEX) - On 29 July 2008 Kwekwe journalists Wycliff Nyarota and James Muonwa were convicted of publishing falsehoods in breach of the repressive Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA).

Kwekwe Magistrate Oliver Mudzongachiso found Nyarota and Muonwa guilty of contravening Section 80 (1) (a) of AIPPA for unlawfully and intentionally publishing a false story in "The Network Guardian". The story reported that George Muvhimi and Tatenda Munhanga were caught in a compromising position in a vehicle in a public place. The judge sentenced each of the journalists to a fine or 20 days imprisonment in default of payment.

In his judgment, Magistrate Mudzongachiso said that, although Muonwa had properly researched the story, he had still been unprofessional when he wrote it. The journalists' former colleague Blessed Mhlanga was found not guilty and acquitted.

The magistrate said Nyarota could not be exonerated as he was the final authority at the newspaper in his capacity as editor and could not blame anyone else for the story's content. The magistrate refused to believe evidence that Mhlanga had reinserted the names of the complainants into the story after they had been removed by Nyarota as the editor.

The magistrate implored the media to be sensitive and professional in its conduct.

MISA-Zimbabwe is extremely concerned with the conviction of these two journalists and calls for the repealing of AIPPA. MISA-Zimbabwe's legal officer, Wilbert Mandinde, said the two journalists would appeal to the High Court against the sentence.

In his criticism of AIPPA as repressive and restrictive, Mandinde quoted the great Mozambican journalist Carlos Cardoso who said: "In the business of truth, it is forbidden to put words into handcuffs."

Updates the Nyarota and the Muonwa cases: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/95069

For further information on the Mhlanga case, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/94564

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