HARARE, September 4 – Human rights groups and media organisations are demanding the release of a Zimbabwean journalist detained after the publication of a story on the donation of used undergarments reportedly sourced from First Lady Grace Mugabe.
News Day journalist, Kenneth Nyangani, has been charged with “criminal nuisance” following the article published on Monday indicating the night dresses and underwear were donated to supporters of the ruling Zanu-PF in the eastern border town of Mutare.
It is understood local legislator, Esau Mupfumi, filed a report with the police. It is unclear if the lawmaker is the complainant himself or the controversial First Lady.
Amnesty International Zimbabwe said the arrest of Nyangani was a deliberate tactic to harass and intimidate him and other journalists in order to deter them from doing their work.
“The intention is to send a chilling message to journalists and media workers that they must self-censor rather than expose truths,” Cousin Zilala, local executive director, said.
Zilala said Zimbabwean journalists should not be criminalised for doing their work.
“Kenneth Nyangani must be released immediately and unconditionally and all charges against him dropped,” he said.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) also raised concern.
CPJ Africa Coordinator Angela Quintal, argued the fact that police had to fish for a new charge because their first accusation of defamation was unconstitutional showed the arrest was aimed squarely at intimidating Zimbabwean journalists into self-censorship.
“Zimbabwean authorities should stop harassing Kenneth Nyangani and release him immediately without charge,” Quintal said.
This is the latest in a crackdown by police against members of the private media.
Daily News journalists, Brighton Goko and Mugove Tafirenyika, sustained serious injuries after ZRP officers brutalised them during anti-government protests in the capital Harare last Friday.
They were hospitalised and released earlier this week.