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Accused Journalists May Challenge Zimbabwe's Media Law - 2002-07-24

A court in Zimbabwe said two journalists charged under the country's tough new media law may challenge the constitutionality of the law in Zimbabwe's Supreme Court.

Geoff Myarota, the editor of Zimbabwe's only independent daily newspaper, The Daily News, and one of his reporters, Lloyd Mudiwa, are charged with publishing a false report, a violation of Zimbabwe's tough new media law.

Their lawyers had argued in court that provisions in the media law violated the constitutional rights of the two journalists.

The lower court judge said she has no jurisdiction over constitutional cases, and transferred the matter to the Supreme Court.

The two journalists were charged after The Daily News published a report that supporters of Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe beheaded a woman in front of her children.

The Daily News retracted the report and apologized after determining that the report was not true.

The two are among a dozen journalists facing charges under the new media laws. Other constitutional challenges to the measures already are awaiting action in the Supreme Court.

Police surrounded the court building where the two journalists appeared because a spokesman for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change also was in the building, charged with murdering his wife.

The MDC spokesman, Learnmore Jongwe, has admitted he stabbed his wife repeatedly after finding her with another man. But he said he did not mean to kill her.

Government-controlled media in Zimbabwe have said Mr. Jongwe's admission he stabbed his wife is proof that the opposition is a party committed to violence.

However, a sociologist at the University of Zimbabwe said this week that violence against women is widespread. She said domestic violence is the second highest cause of death among young women in Zimbabwe. HIV/AIDS is the first cause of death.