Journalists Plead Not Guilty to Charges of Contravening Covid-19 Regulations As Police Arrest Freelance Practitioners for Disorderly Conduct

TWO freelance journalists on Thursday 9 July 2020 pleaded not guilty when their trial on charges of failing to comply with instructions issued by some Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) members to observe social distancing rules between themselves and some detained victims of abduction and torture commenced at Mbare Magistrates Court.

The two freelance journalists Frank Chikowore aged 39 years and Samuel Takawira aged 29 years entered a not guilty plea when their trial commenced before Mbare Magistrate Kudzai Hove.

Chikowore and Takawira were arrested on Friday 22 May 2020 by some ZRP members at Parktown Hospital in Waterfalls suburb in Harare while allegedly filming and interviewing some victims of abduction and torture and charged with contravening section 5(3)(c) of Statutory Instrument 83 of 2020, Public Health (COVID-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) (National Lockdown) Order, 2020.

Prosecutors claimed that Chikowore and Takawira, who are represented by Paidamoyo Saurombe and Tonderai Bhatasara of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) refused to observe the social distancing rule after being ordered to do so by Collin Makore, a police officer, who was on duty in contravention of the law.

According to prosecutors, the journalists allegedly sneaked into the High Dependency Unit at Parktown Hospital to interview Harare West legislator Hon. Joannah Mamombe and MDC Alliance party youth leaders Cecelia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova, who were hospitalised at the medical facility after they were abducted and disappeared and tortured by some yet to be identified people.

During trial, prosecutors led evidence from Makore aged 46 years while Stewart Ephram, who is employed as an assistant administrator at Parktown Hospital will give testimony on Thursday 16 July 2020, where the journalists’ trial continues.

Meanwhile, ZRP members on Thursday 9 July 2020 set free two freelance journalists Panashe Makufa and Prichard Mahove after they had been arrested on the same day and charged with disorderly conduct as defined in section 41 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.

ZRP members accused Makufa of instructing Mahove to take pictures of two police officers who were walking from Mbare Magistrates Court to Mbare Police Camp.

Makufa and Mahove were released into the custody of their lawyers Idirashe Chikomba and Tinashe Chinopfukutwa of ZLHR with ZRP members telling them that the law enforcement agents will summon them to appear in court if they intend to proceed with prosecuting them.

Source: Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights