An all-important conference by Zimbabwean  media stakeholders has been
thrown into disarray after media groups pulled out following the
detention of two media figures, writes a jocoza correspondent.

The media bodies, under the banner of the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ), have pulled out of the conference scheduled for the resort town of Kariba from May 6 – 9 after former broadcaster Jestina Mukoko who had been on bail was sent back to Chikurubi Maximum prison where she spent 92 days.

MAZ also protested against the re-arrest of photo journalist Shadreck Anderson Manyere who was arrested on December 13 last year and granted bail on April 17 after  being held in the same maximum prison for  120 days.

The conference was to chart the path of media reform in the country. MAZ consists of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ), Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe (MMPZ) and the Zimbabwe National Editors Forum.

The alliance said it would not attend the Zimbabwe All Stakeholders Media Conference as it saw the journalists’ redetention as  “an apparent abuse of the judicial process which undermines the spirit and letter of the Global Political Agreement, especially as regards the restoration of a political environment that is democratic and respectful of the rule of law, as well as cognisant of the urgency of ensuring the security and freedom of human rights defenders and citizens in general.

“It is in this context that MAZ considers it impossible to participate at the government All Stakeholders Media Conference when human rights defenders and journalists such as Ms  Mukoko and Mr Manyere, who are presumed innocent until proven guilty, continue to be targets of repression,” said the media block.
On May 5 a Harare magistrate ruled that former Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) news reader and director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project,  Mukoko and 17 activists from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)  be detained at in Chikurubi maximum prison.

Mukoko had been given bail by the state on March 2  after spending 92 days in solitary confinement at Chikurubi Maximum Prison where her health deteriorated sharply. Her release came after the intervention of the political parties in the inclusive government who agreed under the Global Political Agreement  to release her.

Mukoko will go on trial on June 4 facing charges of wanting to overthrow Mugabe who, on February 11, agreed a government of national unity with longtime rival – Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC and Arthur Mutambara, leader of the smaller  faction of the MDC.

On May 5, Mukoko and her group appeared at the Harare Magistrate court where they were all remanded in custody.

The state evoked section 169 of the criminal evidence and procedure Act which provides for termination of bail on a plea to indictment in the High Court, which meant that the bail granted to the accused had been automatically suspended by the indictment and therefore the accused had to be remanded in custody pending any fresh bail considerations before the high court. 

The group had appeared on 4 May before Harare magistrate Catherine Chimanda with the defence objecting to her indictment on terrorism and sabotage charges.

 Beatrice Mtetwa appearing for Mukoko argued that the decision to commit  Mukoko to bail was a result of instructions given to the Attorney General’s office by the president acting in consultation with members of the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC) pursuant to the Global Political Agreement.

She  meant that the bail could not be revoked unless the State could prove that this political pact or compromise was no longer in force.

Meanwhile, Shadreck Manyere who was granted bail on April 17 and later reported to be on the run by Police, has also been put back in  prison although he is recovering in hospital.

 Manyere was said to be on the run by police last week but yet he had been detained at a private hospital after falling sick following his release.

His lawyer, Alec Muchadehama led the Police during inspection in locko where the state immediately re-arrested him but allowed him to continue receiving medication.

 The photo journalist will join his co-accused – Chris Dhlamini and Ghandi Mudzingwa both of the MDC who were re-arrested last week after the state appealed against their bail.

 Manyere is also facing terrorism charges.