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Zimbabwean journalists could face up to 20 years in jail for political story

On 7 May 2013, Dumisani Muleya, editor of the Zimbabwe Independent and chief reporter Owen Gagare, were arrested and charged with publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the state. They were later released by police.

Muleya and Gagare, along with Alpha Media Holdings (AMH) company secretary Nqobile Ndlovu, were charged under Section 31 of the Criminal Law – the Codification and Reform Act.

The offence carries a fine of up to or exceeding Level 14, or imprisonment for a period not exceeding 20 years, or both.

In Zimbabwe, a Level 14 fine means the offence is deemed serious. It is not immediately clear what the maximum fine would be in this case.

Speaking after their seven-hour detention at the Harare Central Police Station, Muleya said this was a typical case involving the harassment and intimidation of journalists, which are rampant in Zimbabwe.

“This is a clear abuse of state machinery and an act of systematic harassment and intimidation of journalists who are merely doing their job. This has always been a common feature of Zimbabwe under President Robert Mugabe and his Orwellian Zanu-PF regime since they came to power in 1980,” he said.

Zanu-PF is the political party to which president Robert Mugabe belongs.

“This uncalled for move is calculated to muzzle the media, in this case ourselves, to scare us away (sic) from writing about such major issues of overwhelming public interest, especially security sector reform, ahead of general elections. But one really wonders why authoritarian regimes like the one in Zimbabwe still think they can successfully suppress the media in this digital and social media age,” Muleya added.


The Zimbabwe Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Zimbabwe) is greatly concerned with the continuous harassment and intimidation of journalists by state security agents, only a few days after the commemoration of World Press Freedom Day on 3 May.

We condemn these actions in the strongest of terms, as they are designed to instill fear and hinder journalists from conducting their lawful, professional duties of informing the nation on socio-economic and political developments that affect their daily lives.

We thus reiterate our demand for repealing or amending repressive legislation such as the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, which have no place in a democratic society. The arrests make a very strong case for urgent media legislative reforms, more so in the context of the envisaged new constitution which will, for the first time, explicitly guarantee media freedom and access to information.


Muleya and Gagare were charged under the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act following publication of a story alleging that the Morgan Tsvangirai-led Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) was engaged in private talks with Zimbabwe's security chiefs ahead of general elections this year.

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