HARARE, April 30– The Zimbabwe government is opposed to the arrest of journalists under the criminal defamation law as it undermines efforts to address media freedom, says Deputy Minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Supa Mandiwanzira.

Newsday editor Nevanji Madanhire and reporter Moses Matenga were on Monday detained at the Harare Central Police Station following the publication on April 24 of a story in which three-year-old Harare boy, Neil Tanatswa Mutyora, was fatally run over by a speeding commuter omnibus during a police chase.

They were charged with contravening Section 31 (a) (1) of the Criminal Law [Codification and Reform] Act for publishing or communicating falsehoods prejudicial to the State with the intention of inciting public disorder or public violence or endangering public safety arising from an article published.

Speaking ahead of the World Press Freedom Day commemoration here Tuesday, Mandiwanzira said it was prudent that the law be scrapped. Mandiwanzira said the plight of Matenga and other journalists who are arrested was a result of the country’s structural circumstances.

“For as long as the law is in place despite our sentiments as the Ministry that superintends over the media which are most affected by this law, we have also to acknowledge that the law is still within our books and that Parliament has not done anything yet to adjust the law,” he said.

“We are opposed to it as a Ministry but does that mean that we are opposed to police action? No we are not. They are doing their job in a situation that we have that the law is still within our books.

“We believe that when we capture headlines as a county of journalists being arrested, it undermines our efforts nationally to remove the perception of our country as a pariah state, to remove the perception that human rights and media freedom does not exist when we here and those outside know better that these things are way too exaggerated.”

Mandiwanzira said the government was committed to aligning the Constitution to the expectation of the media industry but had competing interests as the process was lengthy.