Zimbabwe journalist jailed for publishing newspaper

Inmates prepare meals in the kitchen at the Chikurubi Maximum security prison in Harare, Zimbabwe on May 20, 2015 (AFP Photo/Jekesai Njikizana)

Harare (AFP) - A Zimbabwean journalist has been sentenced to a year in jail for publishing a newspaper without government registration, the main journalists' union said Friday.

Foster Dongozi, secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists, said Patrick Chitongo was convicted by a magistrate's court on Thursday and received a one-year prison term.

"It's a sad day for press freedom when people are jailed for disseminating information," Dongozi told AFP.

"However we advise that, much as we disagree with the law which compels journalists to register, those intending to practise or publish should comply to avoid ending up in dicey situations."

Regional media freedom advocacy group Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA) said Chitongo had been jointly charged with three interns after publishing three issues of a newspaper entitled The Southern Mirror.

They were charged with breaching the country's media law, which forbids "carrying on or operating a mass media service without a valid registration certificate."

Chitongo's co-accused were acquitted after the court found that they were college students who did not have a say in the paper's publication.

Chitongo denied the charges, saying the publications were dummies he intended to hand in to the media commission for registration.

Under Zimbabwe's media law, journalists have to register annually with a government-appointed commission and publishers need to have a registration certificate.

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