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JOURNALIST RELEASED, ANOTHER STILL IN DETENTION

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) and other IFEX members welcomed the release of journalist and human rights activist Jestina Mukoko last week after three months in jail, but urge the Zimbabwean government to free another journalist who is still in detention.

Mukoko was abducted on 3 December 2008 from her home in Norton. Initially held incommunicado, she was brought before a court on 24 December and accused of plotting to overthrow President Robert Mugabe.

She was held in a high-security prison in solitary confinement, allegedly tortured while in custody, and denied medical treatment.

Mukoko was freed on payment of US$600 in bail and was forced to relinquish her passport. "It is good to be free but being detained was an ordeal and I must look after my health," she told reporters.

"Mukoko was unjustly held for three months in very disturbing conditions," Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said. "We are extremely relieved to know that she is free at last, but her ordeal will not be fully over until the authorities drop the charges against her."

RSF hopes her release, just a few weeks after the formation of a national unity government with the opposition, will be the starting point of a new government attitude of respect for free expression.

Mukoko, a former broadcaster for the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) and the privately-owned Voice of The People, now heads the Zimbabwe Peace Project, a human rights organisation that has been monitoring recent political violence in Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile, freelance photographer Shadreck Manyere, who was kidnapped by government agents on 13 December 2008, and later charged with banditry, sabotage and terrorism, for which he faces a prison sentence ranging from 20 years to life, is still in detention, report MISA and RSF. The IFEX members are demanding his immediate release.

Visit these links:
- MISA: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/101249
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=30458
- IFEX Zimbabwe page: http://tinyurl.com/28mvww
(11 March 2009)

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