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Two "Standard" journalists arrested

(IPI/IFEX) - 30 June 2011 - Two journalists working for The Sunday Standard weekly newspaper in Zimbabwe were arrested yesterday for allegedly "publishing false statements prejudicial to the state and undermining public confidence in the law enforcement agents," after they reported on the arrest of an aide to PM Morgan Tsvangirai last week, local and international reports said.

Tsvangirai aide Jameson Timba was arrested last week for allegedly calling President Robert Mugabe a "liar". He was released on Sunday after a High Court found his detention unconstitutional, reports said.

Reporter Patience Nyangove and editor Nevanji Madanhire were yesterday detained by police in Harare. Madanhire and Nyangove have been charged with criminal defamation under Section 96 of the Criminal Code, and with publishing false statements prejudicial to the state under Section 31, multiple reports quoted Standard lawyer Linda Cook as saying.

Nyangove was reportedly released last night while Madanhire was kept at the police station, reports said.

Police told Voice of America (VOA) that the paper had falsely reported that "the notorious" Superintendent Chrispen Makedenge was involved in Timba's arrest.

Chief Executive Officer Raphael Khumalo of Alpha Media Holdings, which publishes The Sunday Standard, told VOA that there was "absolutely no justification whatsoever" for the arrests, and that "the police are acting on a personal issue."

Khumalo told VOA, "Are they acting on behalf of the officer concerned or are they acting on a national cause? If the officer has been defamed, he should follow the laws and sue."

"We are very disappointed to hear that charges have been brought against Patience Nyangove and Nevanji Madanhire," said IPI Director Alison Bethel McKenzie . "Cases like these make clear the need for Zimbabwe to decriminalize defamation and other press offences. Journalists should not be jailed for raising questions about the performance of police or other state institutions."

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