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Zimbabwe court clears South Africans technicians of all charges

Zimbabwe court clears South Africans technicians of all charges
That's it: South Africa's Sipho Maseko gestures as he leaves the magistrate's court with colleague Abdulla Gaibee (R) in the capital Harare April 14, 2008. The pair were acquitted on charges of posing as journalists without accreditation during the recent elections.Photo: Reuters / Howard Burditt

Two South African satellite engineers, held in Zimbabwe on several charges, including violating the country’s draconian media accreditation laws, were acquitted Monday. New York Times reporter Barry Bearak and British freelancer Stephen Bevan are due to appear in court on Wednesday in a similar case.

“We welcome the acquittal of our colleagues Sipho Moses Maseko and Abdulla Ismail Gaibee,” said Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Executive Director Joel Simon. “We call upon the Zimbabwean authorities to drop all charges against journalists.”

Freelance cameraman Sipho Moses Maseko and satellite technician Abdulla Ismail Gaibee of GlobeCast Africa, a subsidiary of satellite service provider GlobeCast, were expected to board a flight out of Harare at 7:30 pm local time, Abdulhak Gardee, director of finance of the South Africa-based company, told CPJ.

The two men recovered their passports Monday afternoon, after Harare Magistrate Dorris Shomwe dismissed three government charges, including practicing journalism without accreditation—a criminal offense until late last year under Zimbabwe’s Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, according to the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA).

The Zimbabwean government used its journalist accreditation law to prevent many major international media outlets and some local journalists from covering the country’s March 29 elections. Very few Western media outlets received accreditation, CPJ reported. A government spokesman told the pro-government daily the Sunday Mail at the time that it had received about 300 accreditation requests.

Maseko and Gaibee were held in police custody for eight days after their arrest on March 27 following their facilitation of an interview of Zimbabwean Information and Publicity Minister Sikhanyiso Ndhluvo with the US broadcaster Cable News Network. They were acquitted but rearrested the same day, and were finally released on bail after spending three more nights in prison. Maseko, a diabetic requiring insulin, and Gaibee, who contracted bronchitis while in police custody, were in good health after receiving medical treatment, according to Gardee.

Police confiscated a GlobeCast camera and a white Mercedes Sprinter satellite uplink truck, according to Gardee. Defense lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa told CPJ the company would file an application with Zimbabwe’s High Court for the release of the equipment.

Date posted: April 15, 2008 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 681