As the world marked Press Freedom Day on Thursday, news emerged
that two independent journalists have been arrested in Zimbabwe.

NewsDay Editor Wisdom Mdzungairi and reporter Desmond
Chingarande were arrested and charged on Wednesday with contravening a section
of the Children’s Act, their lawyer said. They were released on the same day
and told to wait for police to tell them when they’re ready to take them to
court. 

Unnecessary arrest

“They were formally charged for contravening Section 5,
Subsection 5 of the Children’s Act. It’s alleged that they published or
revealed the identity of a child in one of their reports that they made some
time ago,” Jeremiah Bamu told News24.

Bamu said the journalists deny the charges.

“They did not commit an offence and we really do not know
why the police or the state really went that far to arrest them,” the lawyer
said, adding that the issue could have been handled by Zimbabwe’s voluntary
media council or the state-run media commission.

Girl ‘held hostage’

Reports say the article the police objected to was one
published by the paper last month that named a 16-year-old girl who was
allegedly kidnapped and held in a hotel room for three days by a prominent DJ
with a local radio station.

There had been hopes Zimbabwe’s media would be a lot freer
under the new government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa. However, strict press
laws brought in by his predecessor Robert Mugabe remain in force, and critics
say state-run media remains biased in favour of the ruling party.

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