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Zimbabwe Newspaper Reporter, Editor Arrested - 2004-05-21

Zimbabwe police have arrested the editor of a Sunday newspaper and the reporter who wrote a story authorities say is false. Both were charged Friday on security law violations and freed on bail.

Editor of The Standard newspaper, Bornwell Chakaodza, and reporter Valentine Maponga were arrested Friday in connection with an article implicating a senior government official in the murder of Leonard Chimimba, the boss of a nickel mine, earlier this month.

The two journalists who were briefly detained earlier this week were released on bail after being charged under the Public Order and Security Act, which makes it an offense to publish or communicate false statements prejudicial to the State.

Mr. Chimimba was shot in what police say could have been a robbery or carjacking attempt at the gate of his Harare home. His car was found at the scene but the car keys were missing. But his family says he was murdered.

Media reports say he was helping police in an inquiry into the disappearance of truckloads of nickel worth millions of dollars in South Africa. Members of his family say he had met with a team of investigators from the Ministry of Anti-Corruption and Anti-Monopolies in March.

The editor of The Standard has been arrested six times previously in connection with stories published in his newspaper. He still faces charges under the country's Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, a law that freedom of speech advocates say puts unacceptable limits on what the media can or cannot report.

Under that law, the country's most widely read daily newspaper, The Daily News, was shut down last September after it refused to register with a government appointed media commission. Newspapers and journalists must register with the commission in order to practice in Zimbabwe.

If found guilty of the latest charges, Mr. Chakaorza and the reporter face a fine or imprisonment of up to five years.