English PEN has received reports that the Zimbabwean reporter, Gift Phiri, who had been on trial since April 2007, has been acquitted. We warmly welcome this news but remain deeply concerned for the safety of Phiri and a number of other journalists in Zimbabwe following the recent circulation of a purported government ‘blacklist’.
Phiri was on trial for for ‘publishing false news’ and working as a journalist without official accreditation. The charge of publishing false news was dropped in July and the second charge was then dropped on 30 August. If convicted Phiri could have faced a jail sentence of up to two years. The investigation into the torture allegations, reported by PEN at the time, was apparently not carried out.
To read earlier PEN bulletins reporting on Phiri’s arrest and the allegations of torture please click here.
English PEN continues to be deeply concerned for the safety of Phiri and a number of other print journalists in Zimbabwe, whose names were included in a purported government ‘blacklist’ which was apparently leaked to the independent Zimbabwean press at the end of September. The document, dated June 2007, listed some fifteen journalists accused of ‘working hand in hand with hostile anti-Zimbabwean forces’ and who would be subject to strict surveillance and other unspecified measures in the run-up to Zimbabwe’s presidential and parliamentary elections next year.
In addition to Phiri, the list reportedly included: Wilf Mbanga, editor of The Zimbabwean; Abel Mutsakani, editor of the website ZimOnline; Vincent Kahiya, Dumisani Muleya and Itai Mushekwe, publisher, editor and journalist respectively of the daily Zimbabwe Independent; Bill Saidi and Caiphas Chimhete, deputy editor and journalist respectively of the daily The Standard; and Njabulo Ncube, Kumbirai Mafunda and Clemence Manyukwe political editor and journalists of the daily Financial Gazette.
The government has denied the authenticity of the document. However three of the journalists listed, Phiri, Mutsakani and Saidi, have been attacked this year. Mutsakani was shot and seriously injured by three gunmen in South Africa in July, while Saidi received a bullet in an envelope in February.
Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/bulletins/zimbabwejournalistgiftphiriacquitted/