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Journalist in Good Spirits After Release in Zimbabwe - 2002-03-31


A Zimbabwean journalist working for Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper and the Voice of America has been released from jail after more than four days' of imprisonment. Peta Thornycroft was set free after a High Court judge ordered her release.

Journalist Peta Thornycroft was in good spirits after her release. She said she was glad to be out of jail and was looking forward to taking a shower.

Her lawyer says he is not sure whether Zimbabwean authorities will continue to press charges against her after a High Court judge ordered her release.

Earlier in the day in Harare, High Court Judge Mohammed Adam ordered police to set Mrs. Thornycroft free, saying there had never been any grounds for her arrest. Judge Adam said, "the accusations she is not entitled to work as a journalist are absolute nonsense."

Police in the town of Chimanimani originally arrested Mrs. Thornycroft on charges related to the restrictive new Public Order and Security Act. They said they intended to charge her with publishing false information and with inciting public violence.

But after the 57-year-old widow spent several days in jail without being formally charged, police said they had changed their minds. They were going to charge her with working as a journalist without proper accreditation, and with driving an automobile that had not been registered in Zimbabwe.

Mrs. Thornycroft's lawyer says those charges are ridiculous.

Under Zimbabwe's harsh new media law, journalists must be accredited by the government if they want to continue reporting news in the country.

But the media law was only enacted less than two weeks ago, and the special media commission that is supposed to register journalists has not been set up yet. Lawyers say it is legal for reporters to keep working during the transition to the new rules.

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