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  • 2008 harmonised elections - Index of articles

  • Concern about looming crackdown on civil society in Zimbabwe
    April 04, 2008

    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation is seriously concerned about recent reports of the detention of foreign journalists in Zimbabwe, as well as threats to civil society.

    "These arrests are a disturbing indication that the Zimbabwean government is trying to silence any critical voices. We appeal to the authorities to ensure the space for public comment is re-opened and the rights of both media and civil society are protected. We also urge President Mbeki, on behalf of Southern Africa, to show leadership in calling for the protection of these rights, said Kumi Naidoo, Secretary General of CIVICUS.

    Yesterday evening a number of raids were carried out at various locations in Harare during which five foreign journalists were arrested. Three of the journalists have since been released. Two remain detained at the Harare Central Police Station and have been charged with practising journalism without licenses.

    During the run-up to the elections, a number of civil society activists reported harassment and intimidation. Members of civil society groups including Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), the Progressive Teachers' Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) and Restoration of Human Rights Zimbabwe (RoHRZ) were reportedly beaten and arrested during peaceful rallies since January 2008.

    In an earlier appeal to the Southern African Development Community's (SADC) Electoral Observer Team, CIVICUS urged observers to consider the ongoing restrictions on civil society activity in evaluating whether the Zimbabwean elections could be described as free and fair. SADC's assessments of Zimbabwe's past three elections have largely ignored human rights abuses and electoral irregularities. A preliminary report from SADC indicates this election's assessment may not defer from its previously uncritical stance.

    This week, in an open letter to President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, CIVICUS also called for his leadership in ensuring the elections are fully transparent and representative of the will of the Zimbabwean people.

    "As tension builds and a disaster looms in Zimbabwe, it is now time for Africa, particularly the leaders of Southern African, to take action to prevent even further tragedy for the people of Zimbabwe," emphasized Naidoo.

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