In Zimbabwe, three journalists from a newspaper that is run by the country have been arrested for allegations for slander.
Their front page news story concerned the recent cyanide poisonings that led to the deaths of more than 60 elephants at Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. Their story implicated an unnamed top police officer of the country, as well as other officials.
Most officials believe that the elephants had been killed by poachers who wanted to steal their valuable tusks. However, some reports indicate that the killings may have been conducted by park rangers who were disgruntled due to mismanagement and low pay by park officials.
Reports have indicated that the newspaper’s Sunday Mail editor Mabasa Sasa, investigations editor Brian Chitemba and reporter Tinashe Farawo were all arrested on Monday. The journalists all work for the Zimbabwean newspaper The Sunday Mail. Police spokesperson Charity Charamba first reported the news of these arrests.
Charamba said, “The editors and reporters cannot be allowed to hide behind the privilege of press freedom to peddle falsehoods. Our investigations show that the trio is lying.”
However, Amnesty International is outraged by the arrests, calling it a “shocking attempt to threaten freedom of the press”. The group has demanded their immediate release.
Amnesty International’s deputy director for Southern Africa Muleya Mwananyanda said, “Arresting journalists on the basis of ‘publishing falsehoods’ has a chilling effect that may restrict the ability of the media to expose alleged criminal activities by the authorities. These actions create a climate of fear in Zimbabwe and perpetuate impunity.”
The arrested journalists are set to appear in court on Wednesday.
Earlier this week, The Sunday Mail ran a front-page news story that cited unnamed sources who claimed that a syndicate used cyanide to poison and kill the elephants. According to the story, the syndicate included an unnamed police assistant commissioner, park rangers and ivory hunters from Asia.
A total of 62 elephants were killed in the Hwange National Park last month. The most recent attack led to the deaths of 22 elephants. In 2013, more than 100 elephants at the park were killed by cyanide poisonings.