May 11, 2009 / 4:25 PM / 11 years ago

Zimbabwe police arrest, charge editor, journalist

* Police arrest editor, journalist

* West likely to raise concern



(Adds quote, details)

By Nelson Banya

HARARE, May 11 (Reuters) - Zimbabwean police have arrested and charged a newspaper editor and a journalist, a move likely to concern Western donors who say they will only pour in money to the shattered economy once political reforms are implemented.

The detentions will almost certainly raise tensions in the new unity government between President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Vincent Kahiya, editor of the Zimbabwe Independent and Constantine Chimakure, its news editor, were arrested on Monday over an article which named police and security agents allegedly involved in the abduction of rights activists from Tvangirai's MDC party, said their lawyer Innocent Chagonda.

"They are currently in custody. They are being charged for publishing statements which are wholly or materially false with the intention of lowering public confidence in law enforcement agencies," said Chagonda.

They could be brought to court in the next two days, he said.

Police officials were not immediately available for comment.

Previous arrests of MDC activists raised doubts over the new administration. Any new political crises could delay efforts to rebuild Zimbabwe's ruined economy.

Western donors are demanding that the unity government carry out wider political and media reforms before committing funding to Zimbabwe's economic recovery programme.

Officials from Mugabe's ZANU-PF and the MDC are holding what the MDC says are final talks on outstanding power-sharing issues and an announcement on the outcome is expected Tuesday.

The MDC has said its top officials would meet to decide a course of action if the talks fail.

Zimbabwean journalists want the new unity government to scrap tough media laws which critics say Mugabe has used to muzzle his opponents.

ZANU-PF adopted regulations seven years ago imposing strict registration conditions for private news organisations, barring foreign journalists from basing themselves in the country and authorising almost routine arrests of journalists accused of reporting "falsehoods".

In recommendations to the government three months ago, a media consultative convention said the laws were undemocratic and violated the right to free expression. (nelson.banya@thomsonreuters.com; +263 4 799 112) (For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit: af.reuters.com/ )

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