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CCC activists lose bid to block media coverage

by Staf reporter
19 Mar 2022 at 06:36hrs | Views
EXPOSED Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) activists Joana Mamombe and Cecillia Chimbiri's bid to block the Press from spotlighting their criminal trial at the Harare Magistrates' Courts yesterday hit a brick wall after Chief Magistrate Mrs Faith Mushure ruled it was against the Constitution to bar the media.

Mrs Mushure said the pair's bid was against the publications' rights to media expression as enshrined in the Constitution.

She told them to find alternative ways for recourse if aggrieved.

Mamombe and Chimbiri, through their lawyers — Messrs Alec Muchadehama and Jeremiah Bamu — told the court that this publication and the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation's ZTV channel were biased in their reportage as they allegedly portrayed them as people who were continuously lying in court over their abductions claims.

They said the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Mr Nick Mangwana, was publishing unfavourable comments about their trial. It's not specified where the information from Mr Mangwana was published.

Mamombe and Chimbiri allegedly lied that they were abducted by the police sometime in May 2020.

They told the court that Mr Mangwana and the two media houses were not factual in their reportage.

The two are being charged with communicating falsehoods prejudicial to the State.

Messrs Muchadehama and Bamu said: "We have instructions to raise concerns over certain media houses which are continuing to comment on their matter, firstly in respect to what the accused are saying in court and an attempt to treat them as people who continue to lie that they have been abducted.

"The Herald newspaper and ZTV and Government spokesperson Nick Mangwana. These three continue to allege that the accused said that they have been kidnapped and that they have made a U-turn contrary to what they had said.

"We expect such media institutions to be factual and to report proceedings as they occur and as they are happening in court," said Mr Muchadehama.

The State led by Mr Michael Reza submitted that the court did not have powers to determine how the proceedings were reported as the courts did not control editors of the said publications or what Mr Mangwana says.

"I do not know what the accused wants the court to do. The only way the court can do this is to bar the members of the Press. Unfortunately, the court does not have that power. Whenever the courts sit, the doors can be opened to show that anyone can go in and out".

Mr Reza said Mamombe and Chimbiri can approach The Herald, ZTV and Mr Mangwana and raise their concerns.

The court told Mamombe and Chimbiri that they could take appropriate measures for recourse if they felt aggrieved.

Mrs Mushure said the court could not determine how the Press should report court proceedings.

Mamombe and Chimbiri raised the concerns despite having, in their defence outline, denied saying that they were abducted when their trial opened. They also denied communicating with their relatives, friends and lawyers that they had been abducted.

"The accused persons will tell the court that they did not at any stage tell any relative, friend or lawyer that they had been abducted. This is a narrative being yarned by the police and the State in order to abuse the accused.

"As it stands, there is an extant judgment of the High Court in which a factual finding is made that the accused did not communicate to any person that they had been abducted as is being alleged or at all.

"The accused will further tell the court that from the very beginning of this matter, they have requested for particulars as to who they communicated to and what the exact communication was.

"This request was denied many times. They are therefore hamstrung in their defence and can only say that they did not communicate or publish to any lawyer(s) that they had been abducted.

"They put the State to the strict proof of this allegation, in particular they challenge the State to lead evidence from the lawyer(s) they allege and produce proof of the communication they allege," they said in their defence outline.

Mamombe and Chimbiri deny communicating with any of their relatives over the alleged abduction.

"They did not communicate or publish to any friend(s) that they had been abducted.

The two said none of the communication they made at the material time was false or incited violence.

"None of their communications incites or promotes public disorder or public violence or endangers public safety.

"None of their statements undermines public confidence in a law enforcement agency, the prisons and correctional services or the defence forces of Zimbabwe as alleged or at all.

"They challenge the State, not only to prove the alleged communication, but also prove how it undermines public confidence in a law enforcement agency, the prisons and correctional service or defence forces of Zimbabwe," they told the court.

Mamombe and Chimbiri claimed that the police forced them to record their warned and cautioned statements when they were receiving treatment in hospital.

Source - The Herald