15 March 1999


Court clears minister of contempt charges; spares newspaper costs

Incident details

Moven Mahachi



(MISA/IFEX) - On 12 March 1999, the Zimbabwean High Court cleared
Minister Moven Mahachi of contempt of court charges following an
in this
regard brought by the "Standard" newspaper. However, the court found
his secretary, Job Whabira, was guilty of ignoring the court and
subsequently ordered the ministry to pay the legal fees the paper
while trying to secure the release of two journalists who were detained
the time.

**Updates IFEX alerts of 24 February, 12 February, 11 February, 10
9 February, 3 February, 29 January, 27 January, 25 January, 22 January,
January, 18 January, 15 January and 13 January 1999**

The court said it accepted the defence argument that Mahachi was out of
country when the orders had been served and that Whabira had no powers
effect them. However, it said Whabira, who allegedly told the paper at
time that the army would not obey court orders and would free the
journalists at its own pace, acted wrongly. The matter has been referred
the Attorney-General, who may institute a criminal investigation and
formally charge Whabira with contempt.

Background Information

The two journalists from the "Standard," Mark Chavunduka and Ray Choto,
currently facing charges of publishing false information as a result of
article published in their paper on 10 January alleging a coup plot in
Zimbabwe. Chavunduka was arrested by the military on 12 January, and
was arrested by police on 19 January, and then handed over to the
for interrogation. Before their release on bail on 21 January, the
secured at least three High Court orders demanding their release, but
were all ignored.

Both men sustained serious injuries as a result of torture suffered at
hands of military police during their illegal detention. On 2 March, the
newspaper successfully defeated an appeal by the state against the
of the bail conditions of the two journalists to allow them to leave
Zimbabwe to receive medical treatment in the United Kingdom (U.K.). They
currently in the U.K. receiving treatment. They are expected back before
end of March for the commencement of their trial.


Media Institute of Southern Africa
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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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