A Zimbabwean journalist arrested for writing a story deemed insulting to first lady of Zimbabwe, Grace Mugabe, was granted bail on Wednesday, his lawyers said.
Kenneth Nyangani of the privately-owned Newsday newspaper was arrested on Monday over an article that the first lady allegedly donated clothes, including used underwears, to supporters of her husband’s Zanu-PF party.
Grace Mugabe is a notorious shopper with a penchant for designer goods, and just this week was reported by local press to have purchased a new Rolls Royce – in cash.
Nyangani was charged with “criminal nuisance,” which carries a maximum six-month prison term, and ordered released on bail.
Passmore Nyakureba from Legal Aid Group Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said “Nyangani has been granted bail but we will go back to court on Oct. 18 for further remand.
“We are likely to challenge the charge.
“Nyangani has denied any wrongdoing; the charges are malicious and are a violation of constitutional rights.
“His right to practice his profession as a journalist has been seriously threatened.”
Zimbabwe ranks 128 out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders 2017 World Press Freedom Index.
The group described the media situation in the southern African country “oppressive” and noted that both local and foreign journalists regularly faced arrest.
London-based rights watchdog Amnesty International had demanded that the charges against Nyangani be dropped.
President Robert Mugabe, aged 93, ruled Zimbabwe for three decades and intends to contest elections in 2017.
The first lady has been widely tipped as possible successor.
Mugabe has been accused of vote-rigging, multiple human rights violations and embezzlement in a country where 63 per cent of the population live below the poverty line, according to UN World Food Programme.