By: Angus Shaw, Associated Press Writer
(AP) Police in Zimbabwe freed from jail a reporter for a British newspaper who had been detained for allegedly violating strict new media laws.
Peta Thornycroft, 57, a correspondent for Britain’s Daily Telegraph and two South African newspapers, left a police cell in the eastern provincial city of Mutare shortly after 9 p.m., said her lawyer, Tapiwanashe Kujinga.
“Naturally, we are all very relieved,” Kujinga said. “This has been an unnecessary ordeal.”
Earlier Sunday, High Court Judge Mohammed Adam ordered her release and said he found no reason for Thornycroft’s detention. “The accusations she is not entitled to work as a journalist are absolute nonsense,” Adam said in his ruling.
Although the ruling released Thornycroft from custody, she still faces the prospect of being charged for violating the media law. The ruling ensures she will not be held while awaiting the state to decide on formally pressing charges.
Thornycroft, 57, was arrested Wednesday in Chimanimani, about 290 miles southeast of the capital, Harare. She was investigating reports of violent reprisals by ruling party militants against opposition supporters after presidential elections March 9-11.
President Robert Mugabe was declared the winner in a widely criticized election marred by political intimidation, violence, and vote rigging.
Working as a journalist without state accreditation was made illegal under the sweeping Access to Information Act passed in February. Thornycroft was denied accreditation earlier this year before the law was passed.
No other journalist has been accused of violating the media act, which has been criticized as a government tool to muzzle the independent press.
A Zimbabwean citizen, she was born in Britain but has long lived in this African country.