NewsDay journalist Nunurai Jena who was on 2 April 2020 arrested around 10:30am by the police in Chinhoyi as he was taking pictures of police operations at a checkpoint is now being charged with disorderly conduct in a public place.
Jena was initially arrested and detained at Chinhoyi Central Police Station for apparently conducting his professional duties with an expired 2019 journalism accreditation card.
His lawyer, Kudzai Choga said the issue of the expired accreditation had initially been resolved following clarification that there was a directive for journalists to continue using their 2019 cards until the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) issues them with the 2020 accreditation documents.
Instead of releasing Jena thereafter, the police, however, decided to charge him with breaching Section 41 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act which deals with disorderly conduct in a public place, which is the main charge.
Choga told MISA Zimbabwe that Jena also faces the alternative charge of contravening Section 11 (a) (b) of the Public Health (COVID-19), Prevention, Containment and Treatment (National Lockdown Order, 2020.
The lawyer, however, said the alternative charge does not specify exactly what it is that the journalist did to warrant his being charged for that offence.
According to Choga, he was supposed to appear in court on the same day, but failed to make it before the courts closed at 3pm.
Jena was released with summons to appear in court tomorrow (3 April 2020).
This is despite communication from the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services on Monday this week, following the arrest of another journalist, Kudzanai Musengi, to the effect that journalists should be allowed to continue their operations using the 2019 accreditation until the ZMC issues them with new ones for 2020.
MISA Zimbabwe position
MISA Zimbabwe reiterates that police officers should co-operate with journalists and comply with the directives of the Zimbabwe Media Commission and the Ministry of Information,
Publicity and Broadcasting Services to the effect that 2019 accreditation cards are still valid until the ZMC issues the new 2020 cards.
By continuously arresting and harassing journalists conducting their lawful professional duties, the police are not only infringing the constitutionally guaranteed right to media freedom, but citizens’ right to access to information which is very critical at this moment when the country has put in place measures to curb and prevent the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus.
Source: MISA Zimbabwe