3 February 1999


ARTICLE 19 to support journalists' legal bid

Incident details

Mark Chavunduka,Roy Choto


legal action

**Updates IFEX alerts of 29 January, 27 January, 25 January, 22 January, 21
January, 18 January, 15 January and 13 January 1999**

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - The following is an ARTICLE 19 press release:

3 February 1999 - for immediate release


ARTICLE 19 is to support a direct appeal to the Zimbabwean Supreme Court on
behalf of the two Sunday Standard journalists who were arrested and tortured
last month. They now face charges of disseminating false news.

Lawyers for Mark Chavunduka and Roy Choto have decided to mount a direct
challenge to the colonial statute under which the journalists have been
charged - 'publication of false news likely to cause fear, alarm or
despondency among the general public' - on the grounds that it is contrary
to the guarantee of freedom of expression set out in the Zimbabwean
Constitution. ARTICLE 19 will provide information on international and
comparative law to support this challenge.

Andrew Puddephatt, the new Executive Director of ARTICLE 19, said today:

"If successful, this challenge will put an end to one way in which the
government attempts to gag its critics. Zimbabwe's Supreme Court has often
been stout in its defence of the Constitution in the past, although the
government has sometimes simply amended the Constitution when it finds
itself on the wrong end of a Court decision.

"What causes 'alarm and despondency' among a population is knowing that the
government is prepared to violate human rights and torture its critics," he

The latest and most serious action by the authorities to intimidate the
independent press was the arrest and torture of the two Sunday Standard
journalists, in an attempt to force them to reveal their sources for a story
about a coup, and to deter future publication of stories on such matters.

A conviction for publishing false news carries a prison sentence of up to
seven years.Last year, ARTICLE 19 published Media Monopoly and Popular
Protest, a report which documented ways in which the Zimbabwe government's
virtual monopoly of the mass media allows it to censor information about
growing popular opposition.


ARTICLE 19: Global Campaign for Free Expression
6-8 Amwell Street
United Kingdom
info (@) article19.org
Phone: +44 20 7278 9292
Fax: +44 20 7278 7660

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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