Reporters Without Borders welcomes the news that The Standard reporter Nqobani Ndlovu, who was arrested in the southwestern city of Bulawayo on 17 November after writing an article questioning police recruiting, was finally released on 26 November.
The judge in charge of the case ruled on 22 November that he could be freed, but the police appealed against her decision, asking for his detention to be extended for another seven days under section 121 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act.
Reporters Without Borders hails judge Nicholas Mathonsi's 26 November decision to reject the appeal and free Ndlovu.
23-11-2010- Journalist kept in prison despite judicial release order
Reporters Without Borders today condemned the continued detention of Nqobani Ndlovu, the Bulawayo correspondent of the independent weekly The Standard, in defiance of a magistrate's order releasing him on bail.
The journalist is being held in Khami prison in the south-western city and is suffering from diarrhoea.
He was arrested on 17 November three days after his by-lined article appeared in The Standard in which he said the police had cancelled the annual promotion process and instead recruited war veterans and retired police officers, allegedly to help President Robert Mugabe's party win elections in 2011.
Ndlovu was charged with defaming the police chief, Gen. Augustine Chihuri, and the police force in general under Articles 96 (1) (a) and 31 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
The worldwide press freedom organisation appealed for the journalist's release and called for an independent justice system free from political pressure.
Magistrate Sibongile Msipa on Monday 22 November ordered Ndlovu's release on bail of 100 US dollars but under house arrest at his home in Pumula, basing her decision on the fact that the journalist had voluntarily turned himself in to the police. Police immediately invoked section 121 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act (CPEA) to extend his period of custody for a further seven days. They claimed that the journalist, who faced 20 years in prison, was at risk of absconding. However the judge had earlier said that that if found guilty he would be sentenced to a maximum term of two years. He is due back in court on 29 November.
Reporters Without Borders joined the journalist's lawyer, Josphat Tshuma, in condemning this abusive use of legislation.
The lawyer added that the authorities had demanded that the journalist reveal his sources of information, which he had refused to do, citing professional ethics. Reporters Without Borders is concerned about his health and called for him to be released as quickly as possible.
Dumisani Sibanda, bureau chief in Bulawayo of the Alpha Media Holdings (AMH) and president of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ), was briefly held and questioned by police about the same article on 16 November. Police also began an investigation against the editor of The Standard, Nevanji Madanhire, who has stayed away from the newspaper's office since then.
The Standard, Newsday and The Zimbabwe Independent are all owned by AMH.
“We are deeply concerned about the detention of Nqobani Ndlovu, the manhunt against Nevanji Madanhire and the questioning of Dumisani Sibandi”, said Jean-François Julliard, secretary general of the organisation. “It seems that President Mugabe and his supporters are determined to stop observing the power-sharing agreement under which the coalition government was created in February 2009. Roger Mugabe is trying to weaken critical voices by harassing journalists.”
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