Magistrate delays bail decision as journalists kept in jail for 4 nights

HARARE – Two journalists arrested on Friday accused of failing to comply with police orders will spend four nights behind bars before they learn if they will be released on bail.

Mbare magistrate Manase Masiiwa on Saturday postponed ruling on their bail application to Tuesday, frustrating lawyers and journalists’ unions.

Samuel Takawira of 263Chat and Frank Chikowore, a correspondent for the Voice of America’s Studio 7, were arrested at Parktown Hospital in Waterfalls after police stopped them from interviewing three MDC activists abducted and tortured by suspected state security agents on May 13.

Lawyers expressed dismay on Saturday after a Mbare magistrate deferred giving a ruling on the journalists’ bail application in their first court appearance.

“Section 49 of the constitution is clear on personal liberty, the right not to be detained without trial, and not to be arbitrarily deprived of liberty without just cause,” said Roselyn Hanzi of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights who are representing the journalists.

Prosecutors allege that Chikowore and Takawira sneaked into the hospital just before 8AM on Friday and set up their equipment to record an interview with Harare West MP Joana Mamombe and MDC youth assembly pair Cecelia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova, who are recovering from two days of sexual abuse and torture after they were removed from a police station by suspected state security agents and driven to Bindura.

In contravention of section 11(b) of Statutory Instrument 83 of 2020 regulating the ongoing coronavirus lockdown, prosecutors allege that the journalists “failed or refused without sufficient cause to comply with any request made or direction given by a police officer.”

Police claimed the journalists refused to leave the hospital even after being instructed to do so.

Prosecutors opposed bail for the journalists, who were represented by rights lawyers Tonderai Bhatasara and Paidamoyo Saurombe.

Saurombe told the court hearing that the journalists were only informed of the charges at 4PM on Friday, which he said was a violation of their rights.

“One must promptly be informed of the reason for their arrest,” the lawyer said after formally placing the complaint before the magistrate.

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Source: Zim Live

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