27 January 1999


Newspaper director released unconditionally; government promises to crack down on bad press against military

Incident details

Clive Wilson



(MISA/IFEX) - On 25 January 1999, the managing editor of the "Standard"
newspaper, Clive Wilson, was released unconditionally after the Attorney
General refused to prosecute him for what he said was the police's lack of

**Updates IFEX alerts of 27 January, 25 January, 22 January, 21 January, 18
January, 15 January and 13 January 1999**
Wilson appeared in the Magistrate's Court in Harare on 25 January after
spending three nights in jail. He was arrested by police in his office on 22
January and was expected to be charged under Section 50 of the Law and Order
Maintenance Act (LOMA). While Wilson was free to go, the police reportedly
said they were still looking around for other evidence and may still charge
Wilson under another section of the law.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Home Affairs, Dumiso Dabengwa, says that strong
measures will be put in place to protect the military against bad press and
ensure political stability in the country. Quoted in "The Herald", Dabengwa
justified the government's use of the archaic LOMA legislation, saying the
proposed new law, the Public Order and Security Bill, did not protect the
army against media allegations.

The Minister went on to warn journalists against publishing lies in the name
of freedom of expression and said that "he will not sit idle and do nothing
while the security of the army is being undermined by a few misinformed
individuals who have their own hidden agenda."

Reacting to his statements, MISA-Zimbabwe said it condemned any threats made
to the media.

"We take these threats seriously as they have grave implications for media
freedom and development in Zimbabwe. We also fear that the government may
make drastic amendments to the Public Order and Security Bill or, worse
still, revert permanently to the LOMA," the organisation said in a

Background Information

Wilson's arrest came less than a day after the release on bail of the editor
of "The Standard", Mark Chavunduka and reporter, Roy Choto. Chavunduka was
detained by the military on 12 January, two days after "The Standard"
published a story alleging that about twenty three soldiers had been
detained for attempting to overthrow the government of Robert Mugabe. During
his incarceration, Chavunduka was denied access to legal representation, a
doctor, family and friends.

On 14 January, the Zimbabwean High Court ordered the government to release
Chavunduka, arguing that his detention was unlawful. The government
(military) however refused to abide by the court order saying civilian
courts have no jurisdiction over military camps, where Chavunduka was being
held. A second order was issued by the High Court, demanding that Chavunduka
be released before 10 p.m. (local time) on 18 January. Again, the military
defied this and instead pretended it would be handing Chavunduka over to the
police to be charged under a civil process.

Choto was arrested by police on 19 January, and then handed over to the
military for interrogation.

On 21 January, shortly after the two journalists had been released on bail,
they recounted how they had been tortured at the hands of the military. Both
men were beaten all over their bodies with fists, wooden planks and rubber
sticks, particularly on the soles of their feet, and given electric shocks
all over the body, including the genitals. They were also subjected to the
"submarine", where their heads are wrapped in plastic bags and then
submerged in a water tank until they suffocate.

Both men have been charged under the LOMA of 1960 for publishing false
reports that were "likely to cause alarm, fear or despondency to the public,
or section thereof." The offence carries with it a maximum prison sentence
of seven years. They were not asked to plead and were remanded to appear for
trial on 22 February. They were also instructed to surrender their travel

The LOMA was due to be repealed this year and replaced by the less draconian
but still problematic Public Order and Security Bill. The Bill was approved
by parliament last year and was waiting to be gazetted. Observers have told
MISA that the current situation indicates that the Bill may have been
effectively put on hold.

Recommended Action

Send appeals to authorities:

  • calling for an end to the police harassment of Wilson
  • strongly protesting the use of torture by military interrogators
  • calling for the dropping of charges against the two journalists
  • pointing out that the charges against the two journalists are in
    of the right to freedom of expression as contained in Article 19 of the
    International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 9 of the
    African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, of which Zimbabwe is a

    Appeals To

    His Excellency President Robert Mugabe
    Office of the President
    Causeway, Harare
    Fax: +263 4 708 557

    Mr Moven Mahachi
    Zimbabwe Minister of Defence
    Fax: +263 4 796 762

    Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

  • Source

    Media Institute of Southern Africa
    21 Johann Albrecht Street
    Private Bag 13386
    misaalerts (@) gmail.com
    Fax:+264 61 248016

    More on this case

    "Standard" journalists' trial date set 15 March 2000 Tortured journalists' trial deferred 7 January 2000 Court clears minister of contempt charges; spares newspaper costs 15 March 1999 Court rules for journalists to seek medical treatment, state appeals 24 February 1999 IFJ condemns Zimbabwe for arrests and torture 12 February 1999 WAN condemns Zimbabwe press crackdown 11 February 1999 Medical report details torture of two journalists 10 February 1999 Human Rights Watch protests new crackdown on Zimbabwe's independent media 10 February 1999 RSF protests deteriorating press freedom situation 9 February 1999 Three more journalists arrested 8 February 1999 ARTICLE 19 to support journalists' legal bid 3 February 1999 Newspaper director released unconditionally; government promises to crack down on bad press against military 27 January 1999 Police blockade peaceful protest 27 January 1999 Newspaper's managing editor appears in court 27 January 1999 NDIMA protests detention of journalist 25 January 1999 Fears for newspaper director high 25 January 1999 Journalists sent for full medical check-up amid disclosure of torture ordeal; further attacks on journalists; protest held in Namibia 22 January 1999 Journalists released on bail 21 January 1999 Detained journalists appear in court 21 January 1999 MISA concerned for health and well-being of detained journalists 21 January 1999 Journalists tortured while in custody 21 January 1999 WAN protests continued illegal detention of journalist 21 January 1999 Zimbabwean defence ministry continues to detain journalist 18 January 1999 Journalist still detained 15 January 1999 WAN condemns Zimbabwe press crackdown 11 February 1998 WAN condemns Zimbabwe press crackdown 11 February 1998 WAN condemns Zimbabwe press crackdown 11 February 1998 WAN condemns Zimbabwe press crackdown 11 February 1998 Editor arrested 13 January 1999
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