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World Poetry Day commemorated; poet Julius Chingono briefly detained for performing poem deemed "offensive"

(MISA/IFEX) - The following is a 23 March 2009 MISA press release:

MISA- Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe Poets for Human Rights commemorate World Poetry Day

As part of its mandate to promote freedom of expression in Zimbabwe, MISA-Zimbabwe together with Zimbabwe Poets for Human Rights, on 21 March 2009 commemorated the International World Poetry Day in a poetry session dubbed Weapons of Mass Instruction.

The poetry session, which featured ten poets from Harare and was attended by approximately 200 people, was held at the First Street mall and paid tribute to late poet Dambudzo Marechera, who during his time performed his poetry at the same venue, and the late Solomon Mutsvairo who wrote the popular poem, "Nehanda Nyakasikana", recited by the late Vice-president Simon Muzenda during national events.

In a commemorative message, MISA-Zimbabwe advocacy officer, Tabani Moyo, emphasised the importance of freedom of expression in a democracy and raised concern over the continued incarceration of freelance journalist, Anderson Shadreck Manyere. Manyere is charged for acts of insurgence, banditry, sabotage or terrorism under Section 23 (1), (2) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.

The poetry performances touched on the themes of love, culture, the daily life challenges of the ordinary Zimbabwean and the need to be able to speak out.

63-year old poet Julius Chingono, who performed an unpublished piece, "My uniform", that described the advantage that uniformed police officials had over ordinary Zimbabweans during the food shortages when they skipped the queues, was briefly detained by the police who alleged that the poem was offensive. He was released after convincing them that the poem reflected what happened in the past.

For further information on the Manyere case, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/101902

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