HARARE – Two NewsDay journalists arrested on Saturday in Chitungwiza will appear in court on Monday, their lawyers said.
Blessed Mhlanga and Chengeto Chidi are accused of taking of photos or video within a polling station without authority from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. They deny the charges.
The two journalists were in Chitungwiza working on a story on water challenges in the dormitory town.
They say they were interviewing residents at a borehole when they observed police officers attempting to arrest Job Sikhala, the local legislator for Zengeza West constituency. They started recording the incident.
Police then pounced on them and one of the officers, named as Superintendent Matsika, allegedly physically assaulted Mhlanga and smashed his mobile phone on the ground.
The journalists’ phones and cameras were seized by the police who detained them overnight on Saturday.
Jeremiah Bamu, representing the duo, said police recorded statements from the two journalists on Sunday. They were spending a second night in cells before their court appearance on Monday.
The Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA) condemned the arrests.
“The arrest of the two journalists is quite concerning as it comes barely a week after Zimbabwe hosted national and regional World Press Freedom Day commemorations, where local authorities reiterated their commitment to freedom of expression and the media,” MISA said in a statement.
“Even in circumstances where the authorities may think a crime has been committed, there is no need for heavy-handedness such as the smashing of phones and detaining the journalists.”