On 5 December 2011, human rights defenders and *Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe* (MMPZ) members Ms *Molly Chimhanda *and Messrs *Gilbert Mabusa *and *Fadzai December *were arrested after being requested to present themselves at the Gwanda Police Station to “answer questions”
about a workshop which took place in the area on 24 November 2011. They remain in police custody. The following day, police carried out a raid on the MMPZ offices, confiscated over 100 DVDs, and interrogated Mr *Andrew Moyse*, MMPZ Project Coordinator, for several hours before releasing him. MMPZ works to promote freedom of expression and responsible journalism in Zimbabwe by monitoring and analysing the domestic media output. The measures taken against MMPZ coincide with the run-up to the elections which President Robert Mugabe has pledged will take place in early 2012.
On 5 December 2011, Molly Chimhanda, Gilbert Mabusa and Fadzai December presented themselves for questioning at the Gwanda Police Station after being requested to do so by Gwanda police officers. They were subsequently charged with “participating in a gathering without seeking authority from the regulating authority” in contravention of section 25
(1)(b) of the Public Order and Security Act, and “distributing material that is likely to provoke a breach of peace” in breach of section
37(1)(b) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. The charges are vigorously denied by MMPZ.
On 9 December 2011, presiding magistrate Douglas Zvenyika set bail at USD 50 for each of the three human rights defenders; however, the state invoked Section 121 of the Criminal Law Act, which suspends the bail order for seven days pending the filing of an appeal by the State. The human rights defenders therefore remain in custody. The prosecution also added a new charge of “undermining the authority or insulting” the President.
On 6 December 2011, the MMPZ offices in Milton Suburb in Harare were raided by Detective Assistant Inspector Phiri, Detective Sergeant Chinyerere, Detective Sergeant Kasambita and Detective Sergeant Kasambita of the Harare Central Police Station Law and Order Section.
The police officers, who were in possession of a search warrant, reportedly confiscated 127 DVDs which call on the media to report on the upcoming elections in an accurate and balanced manner. After carrying out the raid, the police officers took Andrew Moyse to the police station where he was interrogated for several hours before being released later that day.
These acts of police and judicial harassment form part of a wider pattern of judicial harassment against free speech advocates and journalists that has increased in recent weeks. Front Line is concerned that this pattern could be linked to the upcoming elections.
Front Line believes that the pre-trial detention of Molly Chimhanda, Gilbert Mabusa and Fadzai December, as well as other acts of harassment against MMPZ, are directly related to the legitimate work in defence of human rights carried out by MMPZ and its members.
Front Line urges the authorities in Zimbabwe to:
- Immediately and unconditionally release human rights defenders Molly Chimhanda, Gilbert Mabusa and Fadzai December,as Front Line believes that they are being held solely as a result of their legitimate and peaceful work in the defence of human rights;
- Immediately cease all further harassment of MMPZand its members, as Front Line believes that the raid carried out at the MMPZ offices and the other actions outlined above were solely carried out as a result of the organisation's legitimate work;
- Return the DVDs confiscated during the raid, as they are manifestly not linked to any criminal activity;
- Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Zimbabwe are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions,including police and judicial harassment.
For actions see: http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/16858/action