by Staff Reporter
CHIREDZI-A Zimbabweans journalist, Patrick Chitongo, who was last week jailed for one year for allegedly publishing a newspaper without a valid licence was on Thursday released on bail following the intervention of human and media rights groups.
Chiredzi magistrate Tafadzwa Mhlanga had on June 23 convicted and jailed Chitongo to a twelve months jail term—of which four months were suspended for five years, leaving him with an effective eight months—for publishing and printing a newspaper, The Southern Mirror, without a valid registration from the Zimbabwe Media Commission (ZMC) which is in contravention of Section 72 (1) of the draconian Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA).
Through his lawyer Martin Mureri of Matutu and Mureri Legal Practitioners, a member of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Chitongo applied for bail pending an appeal on both conviction and sentence.
Mureri applied for Chitongo to be released on bail pending the hearing of an appeal against both his conviction and sentence, which was filed last week in the High Court.
The same magistrate who has convicted and sentenced Chitongo released him on a $200 bail.
In a notice of appeal filed in the High Court, Mureri argued that magistrate Mhlanga erred and misdirected himself in convicting and sentencing Chitongo since the journalist had not published a newspaper, but just produced a dummy for the purpose of applying for a licence at the ZMC.
Meanwhile some Zimbabwean journalists were expressed disappointment that the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ), which is known for sending out fawning congratulatory messages to government ministers or when senior appointments—such as the ones recently made at Zimpapers—are made at State-controlled media houses, did not stand in solidarity with Chitongo.
The Zimbabwe chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Zimbabwe) through its Legal Defence Fund has been assisting Chitongo’s family during the time he was locked away at Buffalo Range prison.