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Zimbabwe Court Releases Journalists on Bail - 2001-11-09


A court in Zimbabwe has released two journalists on bail of $180 after they were arrested for allegedly operating an illegal newspaper. The two, Geoff Nyarota, editor of the Daily News, and Wilf Mbanga, a shareholder in the newspaper's parent company, were also ordered to hand their passports to police.

The two were arrested Thursday and held overnight in jail after the government claimed that the company that owns the Daily News is illegal.

At a 45-minute court hearing in Harare, Eric Matinenga, the lawyer defending the two men, strongly condemned their arrest and called for the charge to be dropped. Mr. Matinenga said the charge is trivial and carries a maximum penalty of $30.

The court has delayed making a decision on whether to drop the case until November 28. Mr. Nyarota is being allowed to travel to New York, where he is due to be given an award for press freedom by the International Committee to Protect Journalists.

Speaking to reporters after the court hearing, Mr. Nyarota said, "Nothing whatsoever will cause me to change the policy of my newspaper."

The Daily News has often been criticized by the government for publishing reports about corruption and disregard for human rights by the authorities. Before being called in for questioning on Thursday, Mr. Nyarota had already been detained twice this year by police. Last year, his newspaper's printing plant was blown up.

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