A Harare magistrate has acquitted two journalists, Frank Chikowore and Samuel Takawira who were arrested in May at Parktown Hospital in Waterfalls and charged with violating coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
The two freelance journalists were arrested on 22 May while allegedly filming and interviewing MDC Alliance activists, Joanna Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri, and Netsai Marova who had been abducted and tortured by suspected State agents 0n 13 May.
The MDC Alliance trio was admitted at the medical facility where they were being treated for injuries experienced during the 2-day horrendous torture by their captors.
In a statement posted o their social media channels, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said:
The State’s persecution of freelance journalists Frank Chikowore and Samuel Takawira collapsed spectacularly today after Magistrate Hove discharged and acquitted the duo, who had been on trial for allegedly violating COVID-19 national lockdown orders.
For allegedly committing the offence, Chikowore and Takawira spent close to a week in detention after they were arrested on 22 May by the [Zimbabwe Republic Police] at Parktown Hospital while allegedly filming and interviewing 3 victims of abduction and torture who were detained at the medical facility.
Chikowore and Takawira were charged with contravening section 11(b) of Statutory Instrument 83 of 2020, Public Health (COVID-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) (National Lockdown) Order, 2020.
During the trial, prosecutors alleged that Chikowore and Takawira, who were represented by Paida Saurombe and Tonderai Bhatasara of ZLHR Lawyers failed to observe social distancing protocols between themselves as well as not maintaining social distancing with the victims of abduction and torture.