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CiZC statement on the arrest of MMPZ staffers

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition condemns the ransacking by the police of the Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe (MMPZ) offices and detention of the Director, Andrew Moyse at Harare Central Police station. The Coalition calls upon law enforcement agents to cease forthwith the apparent clampdown on journalists and civic players. The arrest of Moyse comes barely 24 hours after police arrested MMPZ advocacy officers, Fadzai December and Molly Chimhanda, and Public Rights forum committee for Gwanda, Gilbert Mabusa for facilitating a civic education meeting.

Moyse is being charged under Section 31 of the notorious Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, that is "publishing or communicating false statements prejudicial to the state € while December, Chimhanda and Mabusa are being charged under the nefarious Public Order and Security Act for allegedly failing to notify the police of a meeting held on the 24th of November 2011 in Gwanda and under the equally notorious Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act for 'participating in a gathering with the intent to promote public violence'. Gwanda police also claim that the three were distributing subversive material which included a DVD on tolerance and peaceful elections.

Their arrests come against the backdrop of increased tolerance of and onslaughts on journalists and the apparent shrinkage of democratic space in the country. On the 2nd of December, Daily News Editor, Stanley Gama and reporter Xolisani Ncube were detained under defamation charges emanating from an article published in the newspaper with the headline 'Chombo brags about riches'. They were released pending further investigations. The Standard Editor, Nevanji Madanhire and reporter Nqaba Matshazi were also arrested on the 15th of November facing charges of unlawful entry, theft and criminal defamation which emanated from an article published on the 6th of november claiming that Green Card Medical Aid Society owned by Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Advisor, Munyaradzi Kereke is broke. The case against the two remains before the courts.

The Coalition views this incomprehensible and deliberate clampdown by law enforcements agents as a blatant attempt to impede on the operations of pro-democracy players and a negation of civil liberties. Civics and journalists must be allowed to do their work without hindrance while citizens must be allowed to enjoy their fundamental freedoms which include the freedoms which include the freedoms of association and expression without undue disturbances from law enforcement agents.

The use of colonial style legislation to disrupt attempts by the media and civic players to create space for citizens to deliberate and debate on key national questions is unacceptable. Information is power and attempts to stop citizens from being empowered by the media and media groups is disempowering. Zimbabwe is currently carrying out the constitution making process with prospects of elections within the next two years. It is critical for the political environment to allow greater citizen participation by allowing pro-democracy players to execute their mandates of creating a public sphere for the electorate without hindrances.

The Coalition demands that:

· The police immediately release Andrew Moyse, Fadzai December, Molly Chimhanda and Gilbert Mabusa from custody and grant them their pre-trial rights.

· The police allow journalists to practice their trade without fear of either persecution or prosecution

· Law enforcement agents cease forthwith the onslaught on pro-democracy players

· The inclusive government accelerates the legislative reform agenda to rid the nation of archaic, colonial style laws including POSA which hinder the full enjoyment of fundamental laws.

Issued by: Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition

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