Zimbabwean police have threatened a photographer from The Standard for
publishing a picture of media lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa showing her
buttocks and arm that were bruised in an alleged assault by police,
reports Gugu Ziyaphapha.


The picture that caused all the trouble: lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa shows where she was assaulted

The controversial photo, published on the front page, shows Mtetwa lifting her skirt to show the deep soft tissue bruising on her bottom, thighs and arm, injuries she sustained after being beaten with rubber truncheons by police. Mtetwa is also the president of the Law Society of Zimbabwe.

Mtetwa was assaulted by police after leading lawyers in a demonstration against the harassment and illegal arrest of fellow lawyers.

Speaking from hiding, photographer Boldwill Hungwe told journalism.co.za that he got a call from the law and order section of the police on 18 May saying the photo was obscene and it violated the Public Order and Security Act and the Censorship and Entertainment Control Act.

"A police officer from Harare Central who identified himself as Inspector Chinembiri called me asking me to come down to the police station but because we know how police beat and torture journalists, I told them I will not come without my lawyer.

They then threatened him with unspecified action and told him he would be picked up at the paper’s head office or his home.

“Since it was a Friday I had to disappear and go into hiding because they were going to illegally detain and torture me over the weekend.”

Davison Maruziva, the weekly paper’s editor says the harassment is part of the state's crusade to harass the country’s independent media.

"First, it was leaders of the opposition and civic society; then their supporters and the lawyers who defended them. Now they are coming for the messengers who carry images of their excesses to the wider domestic and international public."

"The intention is to scare us away from covering their acts of naked brutality” says Maruziva.

Hungwe said, “I get a chill down my spine if I think about the abduction and murder of former ZBH cameraman, Edward Chikomba, the torture of Gift Phiri of The Zimbabwean. Former Daily News journalist Luke Tamborinyoka was also tortured and is still detained since March. Given that scenario I fear for my life.”

A police officer from Central police station, who refused to be named, said: "We want Hungwe to come and sign a statement, and answer the charges. Nothing will happen to him, we are the police, why does he not want to come if he says he is innocent?"
Hungwe who has not yet been formally charged, faces a fine or imprisonment or both if found guilty.

Last year, Bill Saidi, the paper’s deputy editor, received a bullet in a hand-delivered envelope warning him to "watch out" after the paper published a cartoon showing baboons poking fun at an army officer's pay slip.

Two years ago the paper got into trouble for publishing a photo of President Robert pulling up his trousers.

Alexeos Maziyikana, the paper’s marketing executive was arrested and detained on 17 May for publicly criticising the arrest of a street newspaper vendor by police. Maziyikana was accused of interfering and obstructing the course of justice and for being "a street lawyer". He was later released.