Two journalists Pedzisayi Ruhanya of the Daily News and Ishmael Mafundikwa, a freelance journalist, were arrested outside the High Court in Harare as they sought entrance to cover the treason trial of Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his two lieutenants.
Tsvangirai is charged with MDC secretary general Welshman Ncube and legislator Renson Gasela with plotting to assassinate President Robert Mugabe.
Police initially barred all non-government journalists from court but presiding judge Paddington Garwe ruled that the trial must be held in public and all interested parties should be allowed in court unless they were barred by the court.
Viewing cable 03HARARE250, TWO JOURNALISTS ARRESTED AT TSVANGIRAI TRIAL,
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS HARARE 000250
DEPT FOR AF/PDPA FOR DALTON, MITCHELL AND SIMS
NSC FOR JENDAYI FRAZER
LONDON FOR GURNEY
PARIS FOR NEARY
NAIROBI FOR PFLAUMER
E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: TWO JOURNALISTS ARRESTED AT TSVANGIRAI TRIAL,
¶1. Two journalists were arrested outside of
Harare’s High Court on February 3 as they sought
entrance into the court to cover the opening day of
opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s treason trial.
The two journalists, Daily News Deputy News Editor
Pedzisayi Ruhanya and freelance journalist Ishmael
Mafundikwa, were charged with violating Section 17 of
the Public Order and Security Act. Section 17 deals
with inciting or participating in public violence.
The two remain in police custody on February 4 but,
according to relatives, have not been mistreated. Mr.
Mafundikwa’s lawyer hopes her client will have a
hearing on February 4.
¶2. Police initially barred all non-government
journalists from court. Reporters from government-
owned print and electronic media were given access.
After an urgent request by the defense lawyers,
presiding judge Paddington Garwe ruled that the trial
must be “held in public” and “interested parties
should be allowed in court unless they are barred by
the court.” After the judge’s ruling, only those
journalists with valid press cards issued under the
controversial Access to Information and Protection of
Privacy Act (AIPPA). This still amounted to a partial
ban on non-government media as most foreign
correspondents and journalists from the independent
media have yet to receive accreditation.
¶3. In the chaotic scene outside of the court
before the trial began, American journalist Andrew
Meldrum (has permanent resident status in Zimbabwe)
was pushed and shoved by police and hit over the head
with a police baton. Mr. Meldrum told Embassy officer
that he was not seriously hurt.