Home » Human Rights » Scribes Charged for Child Kombi-Death Story

POLICE on Monday arrested and charged Newsday editor, Nevanji Madanhire and reporter Moses Matenga for allegedly trying to incite public violence through writing stories allegedly blaming the current police-commuter transport skirmishes on police boss, Augustine Chihuri.

This was after three-year-old Tanatswa Neil Mutyora was last week hit by a speeding kombi, whose driver was fleeing arrest from “a menacing police officer” along Harare’s Chinhoyi street.

The minor, who died after sustaining serious head injuries, had been in the company of his aunt with whom he was crossing the busy road.

According to the newspaper’s website, police summoned the two scribes after the young reporter had written a series of stories fingering the police in the tragedy.

The paper covered the incident extensively with one of its headlines saying, “Chihuri, you are responsible”, a story the police claim was meant to incite public violence.

In the story, the daily further quoted angry mourners and online commentators condemning police for the death of the child and urging Chihuri to take personal responsibility for the misfortune.

“The confrontations between kombi crews and the police have turned nasty, often ending in near death of innocent pedestrians and commuters, but the police seem to have failed to control the traffic jungle,” the paper wrote.

Madanhire and Matenga are accused of publishing falsehoods prejudicial to the state.

National police spokesperson, Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba accused the paper of “irresponsible journalism”.

Madanhire and Matenga, who both deny the charges, were detained and interrogated for seven hours before being charged and released.

Police said they will proceed by way of summons after completing their investigations.

Tonderai Bhatarasara, the duo’s lawyer, said the law under which police were charging the journalists had been ruled unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court.

“From our understanding, the law that they are being charged was declared illegal by the Constitutional Court in the case of Chimakure (Constantine) and another, however, as you know, we can’t argue about the legality of the charge at a police station. We will do that at the courts,” he said.

Zimbabwe Union of Journalists secretary general, Foster Dongozi condemned the arrest.

“The arrest and harassment of journalists is unnecessary, unhelpful and is actually one of the reasons why Zimbabwe continues to be portrayed as a pariah state, which does not really benefit anyone. That is why we continue to say some of the laws that we operate under need to be changed,” he said.

The arrest of the duo comes days before the country joins the rest of the world in commemorating World Press Freedom Day, a day set aside by the United Nations through UNESCO to promote press freedom.

Source : New Zimbabwe