Another Freelance Journalist arrested "¦ as onslaught on journalists intensifies

Freelance journalist Thomas Madhuku was arrested on Monday the 23rd of July 2012 for questioning the Registrar General about the voters roll. Apart from being arrested, he was and is still being intimidated and constantly interrogated by the officers from the   infamous Central Intelligence Organization (CIO) for conducting a research about the discrepancies of the country's voters' roll.

Thomas Madhuku who also works for the Platform for Youth Development Trust (PYD) spent close to five hours on Monday the 23rd of July 2012 detained at the Registrar General Tobaiwa Mudede's office before being later moved to Harare Central police Station.   Madhuku had earlier on asked the Registrar General Tobaiwa Mudede on the 13th of July 2012 to assist him with his research on the shambolic state of the voters roll as highlighted by the Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network (ZESN) report of 2011 which stated that the voters roll was characterized by ghost voters.   Mudede responded by telling Madhuku to leave the questions in written form and come back after ten days.   After ten days Madhuku returned to the Registrar General's office and found Mudede waiting for him in the company of alleged intelligence officers.

The alleged state agents interrogated him on the intentions of the research and demanded to know how he got access to the voters roll.

A lawyer from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights intervened around six in the evening after the intelligence officers had refused to release Madhuku. Madhuku was later on taken to the Central police station where he is currently being detained.

Claris Madhuku, Director of PYD told the Crisis Report team that they only managed to get access to Thomas yesterday in the form of a family visit from 1030hrs to 1130hrs in   the company of the lawyer. He added on to say Thomas Madhuku was supposed to appear in Court today but however the state delayed the Court proceedings by deliberately failing to process the docket. His lawyer Tonderai Bhatasara of Mupanga Bhatasara Attorneys, who is representing Madhuku, is currently attending at the Law and Order Section at Harare Central Police Station, where a warned and cautioned statement is likely to be recorded from the freelance journalist and from where details of the charges that he faces will emerge. According to Bhatasara, the police allege that Madhuku tempered with the country's voters roll and practised journalism with expired accreditation

The arrest of Madhuku comes two days after another Freelance photojournalist Regis Marisamhuka was on 22 July 2012 allegedly assaulted by ZANU PF supporters at Murombedzi growth point in Zvimba where he had travelled to cover an MDC-T rally.

The harassment and arrest of journalists is on the rise and there are concerns that the onslaught might continue. Speaking to the Crisis Report MISA Chairperson Njubulo Ncube exhorted that,

€The continued onslaught   on Journalists by the state   is a continuing sign of changes and continuities around the victimization and harassment of journalists going about their work, which has almost become an everyday occurrence in Zimbabwe. These arrests are a clear sign of what we have always lamented around the absence of freedom of expression, the press and access to information in Zimbabwe. €

The MISA Chairperson further stated that, inspite of the hype around the new constitution, "The provisions in the third draft constitution which touch on media freedom and access to information are just like putting lipstick on a frog or applying face powder on a baboon- they will not bring much change to the situation. The repressive laws such as AIPPA and POSA must be repealed forthwith, in order for real progress to be made. €

Thomas Madhuku is expected to appear in court on Thursday 26 July 2012.

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