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Police Investigating Charges Against Zimbabwe Journalists


In Zimbabwe, journalists from a privately owned weekly newspaper are being investigated by police for what they say is a false story in connection with last month's general election.

Police in Harare have asked Davison Maruziva, the editor of Zimbabwe's leading Sunday newspaper, The Standard, and one of his reporters to present themselves to detectives. The two have spoken to detectives, but they have not gone to the police station to be interviewed.

During the past three years, most journalists who comply with police requests to go to a police station for questioning are detained.

According to police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena, Mr. Maruziva and reporter Savious Kwinika are being investigated for what he said was a false report published two-weeks ago. Mr. Bvudzijena said he did not know whether the two faced arrest.

The report carried in The Standard was in connection with allegations of illegal possession of ballot papers by a government official in a voting district south of Harare. Mr. Maruziva says police had visited him at his office and that the company's lawyer was handling the matter. He said he did not know if he or Mr. Kwinika would be arrested.

The Standard is the only Sunday newspaper, which does not support President Robert Mugabe's ruling party, ZANU-PF.

Mr. Maruziva was the founding deputy editor of Zimbabwe's short-lived Daily News, the country's only independent daily newspaper, which was effectively banned in September 2003.

He took over editorship of The Standard last month. His predecessor, Bornwell Chakaodza, has been accused by the government of violating the Zimbabwe's tough media law and appeared in court last Friday. Though he is not being held in prison, the case against Mr. Chakaodza remains open.

Late last week, two journalists from a British weekly, the Sunday Telegraph, were acquitted of charges of working without accreditation after spending nearly two weeks in prison.

Scores of journalists, both local and those working for foreign media, have been harassed since 2002, when the media law was introduced by then-Information Minister Jonathan Moyo. But no journalist has been convicted under the law, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

But analysts say the law is having an effect. They say the fear of arrest and of heavy jail sentences has led many Zimbabwean journalists, and the majority of foreign correspondents, to leave the country during the past three years.

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