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Zimbabwe: Minister files criminal defamation charges against journalist
Golden Maunganidze the editor of The Masvingo Mirror was on 10 May 2010 summoned to Harare Central Police Station where he was interrogated for six hours following publication of a story that allegedly criminally defames Walter Mzembi, the Minister of Tourism.
Mzembi is also the Member of Parliament for Masvingo South.
Maunganidze who was summoned by Chief Superintendent Ngirishi, travelled more than 250km from the southern town of Masvingo to Harare where he was detained from around 11am and only released at 6.10 pm. Maunganidze told MISA-Zimbabwe on 11 May 2010 that he was questioned by Detective Inspector Muriri.
The editor who was represented by his lawyer Arthur Marara, said he was mainly quizzed over the sources of his information, which he refused to disclose. He also said that before the complaint was filed he had been quizzed for the same information by some journalists whom he later allegedly established as have been deployed by the minister in question.
This suspicion, he said, had been augmented by the fact that when he arrived at the police station he was shown transcripts of the communication he had with the journalists. The transcripts had been filed as supporting evidence in the report filed by the Minister.
In a letter to Chief Superintendent Ngirishi written by his lawyer, Maunganidze denies the allegations of criminal defamation as defined by Section 96 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
The letter raises jurisdictional concerns on why Maunganidze was summoned to Harare when the alleged story complained of emanated and was published in Masvingo. Note is also made of the fact that the action by the police of bypassing these aspects of jurisdiction actually amount to harassment of the respondent.
The allegations arise from a story that Maunganidze wrote in the Masvingo Mirror’s edition of 9-15 April 2010 titled: Mugabe’s birthday gifts stolen- big names implicated. in which it was alleged that some top ZANU PF officials who had collected gifts on the president’s behalf for his 86th birthday had diverted them for their personal use.
Ironically, the allegedly offending story did not mention the minister in question as being among the ?big names implicated?.
The report filed by Mzembi, on the other hand, is premised on online publications that followed the publication of Maunganidze’s story. The online stories explicitly mentioned the minister as being among those implicated. The minister argues that the online stories were authored by the same person.
Maunganidze insists he has no case to answer as he did not mention any names in the story carried by The Masvingo Mirror. He further argues that the subsequent online stories mentioning the Minister’s name were not written by him as his sole employer of record is The Masvingo Mirror.
Source: Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)