The New Zealand journalist imprisoned in Zimbabwe has not been released say his family, despite media reports that he has.

Speaking to Fairfax, Robin Hammond’s sister Jessica Doube said he was still being detained by Zimbabwe authorities.

“We’ve heard from his fiance in South Africa, and she said he hasn’t been released.”

Doube said Hammond’s fiance was in constant contact with him.

“We are obviously disappointed the reports aren’t true, we would love him to be freed,” Doube said.

Zimbabwe newspaper The Herald had reported Hammond was released and fined $183.10 for breaching media regulations, when he and Zimbabwe woman Bertha Chiguvare were arrested on Monday for illegally working on a story on irregular migration between Zimbabwe and South Africa.

New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) has not received any updates on the matter yet.

Hammond grew up in Wellington before moving first to Britain and then South Africa, where he has lived for about the past three years and has won international media awards for his work as a photo journalist. In 2009 and 2010 he won Amnesty International media awards and Life Magazine included one of his pictures in their edition of Pictures of the Year for 2010.

Hammond’s mother, Christine, said her family had not heard from him in more than a week “but it’s unlikely we would hear from him until he is back in South Africa”.

She said her daughter had rung her this morning after she heard on radio there were reports he had been freed, but the family were “waiting on tenterhooks” to try and get the information confirmed.

His arrest was his second in as many months in Zimbabwe, Hammond said. She was worried about her son’s safety and hoped he would be allowed to return to his home in Cape Town, South Africa, unharmed.

Hammond said her son was aware of the job’s dangers, “but there is a quote that says ‘be the difference you want to see in the world’ and he is making the difference he wants to see and we are so amazingly blown away by his passion and his commitment and the trueness of spirit”.

“He has seen some horrific things and the stories he tells are just gut-wrenching.”

Hammond’s sister Anna-Mareia, 29, said she was surprised her brother had gone back to Zimbabwe so soon after his initial arrest. In the first instance he was detained for about 36 hours in “some really horrible, dingy room with nothing to lie on – just concrete, and no windows or anything like that”.

She did not know the full circumstances surrounding the first arrest, but understood he was taking photos that the authorities didn’t like.

“He’s kind of cagey about it [revealing details]. He knew the Zimbabwe government wouldn’t be too pleased with it. He’s like the bravest guy that I know.”

The paper reported the pair appeared in front of magistrate yesterday (local time) charged with contravening sections of the Protected Areas and Places and Immigration Acts.

Hammond, 37, and Chiguvare, who the paper said worked for Save the Children, were stopped by officials when taking photos at the border.

At the time, an Mfat spokesperson said they were aware of the situation.

Hammond was understood to be based in Cape Town working as a teacher and photographer.

“Preliminary investigations reveal the Hammond Robin Nicholas [sic] who claims to be a teacher and photographer entered the country on Sunday morning in the company of Bertha Chiguvare who is employed by Save the Children in Musina South Africa,” Beitbridge district Chief Superintendent Lawrence Chinhengo told The Herald.

“They misrepresented to the Department of Immigration that they were on holiday. In fact they were on a mission to investigate how illegal immigrants manage to cross into South Africa,” he said.

“After being cleared at the border post they spent the night in Beitbridge and on the following day they enlisted the services of a man who facilitates illegal migration popularly know as Guma Guma. They hired a taxi and went to Dulibadzimu Gorge along the Limpopo River intending to take videos and pictures of the illegal entry points. They however, came across police and soldiers who were on patrol in the area and sped off to the border post.”

He said the two continued taking videos and photos near the commercial area.

“The duo ran out of luck since our detectives were already on the look out for them after getting a tip-off. They were arrested after taking photos of one of the travellers and we recovered equipment including video and digital cameras and a voice tracker.”

Police found a recording of an interview the duo did with a young girl and photos of the border post, Chinhengo said. Hammond had apparently been arrested in another province while on a similar mission.

Chiguvare faced charges of breaching a section of the Criminal Law Reform and Codification and the Protected Areas and Places Acts.

(Source)