Amnesty International demands release of Zim activists

Amnesty International called on Friday for the immediate and unconditional release of three Zimbabwean human rights activists arrested on Monday, describing them as “prisoners of conscience”.

Three members of the Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ), which promotes freedom of expression and responsible journalism, were awaiting a judgment on their bail application, which was due on Friday, Amnesty said in a statement.

The international human rights watchdog named the three as Fadzai December, Molly Chimhanda, Gilbert Mabusa. A fourth MMPZ activist, Andrew Moyse, was detained by police for several hours on Tuesday.

“The detained activists were arrested solely for their legitimate work advocating for media reforms and freedom of expression in Zimbabwe,” said Erwin van der Borght, Amnesty International’s Africa Programme Director.

“We consider them to be prisoners of conscience and are calling for their immediate and unconditional release.”

Breach of peace
Zimbabwe authorities accuse the three of taking part in a gathering without permission and allegedly “distributing material that is likely to provoke a breach of peace”, Amnesty said.

Moyse was accused of possessing material on a 1980s government operation in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces in which thousands of people were killed or wounded by the security forces.

The US embassy in Harare protested on Wednesday over the arrests and the harassment of journalists in the Southern African country.

In recent weeks, several chief editors and journalists have been briefly arrested, notably for “defamation” in articles about members of President Robert Mugabe’s entourage.

A crackdown on the media began about 10 years ago. Certain newspapers were forced to close down, while local journalists are subject to harassment and the government has banned foreign correspondents.

Reforms to the sector are a major point of discord between Mugabe and his rival, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who formed a fragile government of national unity in 2009 after a bloody electoral campaign the previous year.—AFP

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