Arrested #Zimbabwe Journalist appears in court wearing Mugabe shirt

Hovo

THE irony was writ large in the looping signature of President Robert Mugabe.

One of three state media journalists who appeared at the Harare Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday was wearing a jacket popular with admirers of the long-time Zimbabwe president.

Tinashe Farawo, who like his colleagues Mabasa Sasa and Brian Chitemba was handcuffed for his bail appearance, wore a black jacket with Mugabe’s signature embroidered on the back and front.

All three men work for the official Sunday Mail, which is loyal to Mugabe, 91, and his government.

Their arrest on Monday over a story alleging police involvement in an elephant poisoning scandal sparked interest because journalists employed by state media are normally less at risk of arrest than reporters from Zimbabwe’s private press.

In fact, six journalists from the official press were placed under Western sanctions during Zimbabwe’s political and economic crisis because their overwhelmingly pro-state reporting was judged to be an “incitement to hatred”, according to comments from top EU official Aldo dell’Ariccia in 2011.

‘Let’s march against the madness’

Reporters from the private press have come out in solidarity with their Sunday Mail colleagues, with Zenzele Ndebele of Radio Dialogue tweeting: “I think we need to march as journalists against the madness.”

Trevor Ncube, publisher of the Zimbabwe Independent, Standard and Newsday papers, said in a tweet: “You [Zimpapers, publishers of the Sunday Mail] have 100% of our support in having your journalists released. This has been our life for the past 2 decades.”

Garments bearing Mugabe’s signature first appeared ahead of elections in 2013. Much sleeker than party T-shirts or wraparound skirts bearing the president’s face, they appeal to hip urban professionals keen to proclaim their support for their leader.

Around sixty elephants have been poisoned with cyanide in Hwange National Park in recent weeks in a crime that bears the hallmarks of an organised poaching syndicate. The Sunday Mail said an assistant police commissioner was being investigated in connection with the poisonings, but police insist that is not true.

The Sunday Mail’s sister paper the Herald said in a front-page editorial comment on Wednesday that the arrest of the journalists was “an over-reaction that implies… that the police have something to hide.”

The reporters were granted $100 bail.

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