Harare Magistrate Archie Wochiunga has acquitted the South African media company, Globecast Satellite, of charges that it had violated Zimbabwe's Broadcasting Services Act (BSA), according to a release from Misa.
On August 18, Wochiunga acquitted the company after an application for discharge by defence counsel Beatrice Mtetwa. Globecast Satellite pleaded not guilty to charges of contravening Section 7 (1) and Section 7 (4) and 7 (5) of the BSA, which prohibit the provision of broadcasting services and the operating of a signal carrier without a licence.
Wochiunga agreed with Mtetwa that the evidence presented by the state was so manifestly unreliable that no reasonable court would rely on it.
The judge also disagreed with the state's response that the offence was a strict liability offence. A strict liability offence is committed when one does something prohibited by the law, even if one had no intention of committing the offence. The magistrate said that after going through the exhibits tendered in court, it was apparent that Globecast had no intention to commit an offence.
"I am satisfied that the state has failed to show a prima facie case against the accused and therefore I find the accused not guilty," said Wochiunga.
Soon after the verdict was handed down, state counsel Florence Ziyambi notified the court of the state's intention to appeal the magistrate's decision.
MISA-Zimbabwe welcomes the decision and would have hoped that the magistrate's ruling would have put the matter to rest. MISA-Zimbabwe insists on the need to repeal overly restrictive laws such as the Broadcasting Services Act and to come up with purely democratic laws that will allow for the proper establishment of a three-tiered broadcasting system allowing for public, commercial and community broadcasting, as envisaged under the African Charter on Broadcasting.
This legal action against Globecast Satellite followed closely upon the acquittal of two of the company's employees, Moses Maseko and Ishmael Gaibee, who drove the company's outside broadcasting van and operated a satellite uplink. The two were acquitted of charges of practicing journalism without accreditation in April 2008.