ZIMBABWE – Prosecuters said Friday said they were not ready to try Sunday Mail editor Mabasa Sasa, Investigations Editor Brian Chitemba and reporter Tinashe Farawo over allegations of publishing false statements.
The three were remanded to December 17 after prosecutor Sharon Mashavira told the court that the police were still investigating the case.
“The police are still gathering evidence and have not finalised their investigations and as such we apply that the case be remanded to another date,” she said.
Sasa, Chitemba and Farawo were arrested over an article published on November 1, claiming the involvement of senior police officers and Parks and Wildlife Management Authority rangers in elephant poaching.
Mashavira who initially denied the trio bail on their initial remand said their charges were serious and could attract a maximum jail term of 20 years.
However the three walked free after their lawyer, Advocate Fadzai Mahere instructed by attorney James Muzangaza, argued that it was the duty of the police to investigate criminal offences and that the press was also entitled to publish the information.
“You admit that 22 elephants have been killed using cyanide which is a serious offence,” said Mhere.
“You told the courts that it is a serious offence because a police officer was implicated.”
She added: “Since your responsibility was to arrest them and come up with charges, when did you come up with the conclusion that the report was false?”
The presiding magistrate then ruled in their journalists’ favour.
It is the state’s case that Sasa connived with Chitemba and Farawo to write and publish a false article knowing that no senior official was being investigated any police station for having been involved in poaching.
The three were arrested early this month and freed on $100 bail with reporting conditions.