15 March 2000


"Standard" journalists' trial date set

Incident details

Mark Chavunduka, Ray Choto

The two "Standard" newspaper journalists, Mark Chavunduka and Ray Choto, have been scheduled to appear before a full bench of judges of appeal on 20 March 2000, following their submission of two Supreme Court applications. In a constitutional test case, the lawyers for the two journalists will challenge the validity of Section 50 (2) of the Law and Order Maintenance Act (LOMA), the law under which the journalists were charged.

Home Affairs Minister Dumiso Dabengwa has argued in an opposing affidavit that the section being challenged, part of the repressive legislation used by the pre-independence Ian Smith regime, should remain in the statutory books to deal with irresponsible journalists in cases where national interests were at stake.


Chavunduka was arrested by the military on 12 January 1999, and Choto was arrested by police on 19 January and then handed over to the military for interrogation. Before their release on bail on 21 January, the newspaper secured at least three High Court orders demanding their release, but all were ignored. Both men sustained serious injuries as a result of torture suffered at the hands of military police during their illegal detention.

Both journalists are facing charges under Section 50(2) of the LOMA following a 10 January article in the "Standard" alleging a coup plot within the ranks of the military. They are accused of publishing false information likely to cause fear and alarm.

The journalists have instituted several court actions against various parties since their release, including a High Court application challenging the constitutional validity of the law under which they are being charged.

They are also suing the army for unspecified damages for wrongful arrest and detention, and have laid criminal charges over their assault and torture, while also pressing charges against the police detectives who handled their case for aiding and abetting their release from "lawful police custody to the illegal detention of the military authorities". In addition, Chavunduka has formally laid a contempt of court charge against Defence Secretary Job Whabira, who failed to procure his release on being served with a court order to this effect.

The journalists have additionally filed an application in the Supreme Court seeking to force Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri to investigate the crimes committed by agents of the state against the journalists.


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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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