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SADC urged to tackle Mugabe about surge in press freedom violations
August 12, 2011
Borders calls on the heads of state and government attending the
Southern African Development Community summit being held in the
Angolan capital of Luanda from 14 to 19 August to examine the situation
of the media in Zimbabwe, where press freedom violations are increasing
at an alarming rate.
In the past
month alone, Reporters Without Borders has tallied more than 11
violations of the freedom or safety of journalists, all of which
have remained unpunished.
with apparently isolated incidents and outright manoeuvres by the
government to bring critical news media to heel, press freedom violations
have grown significantly in Zimbabwe in recent weeks," Reporters
Without Borders said. "This is disturbing at a time when Robert
Mugabe is trying to rush the organization of the presidential election
and the national unity government is steadily falling apart.
in 2009, this government brought a few months of hope for journalists
after a dark decade for freedom of expression. But the surge in
cases of violence, intimidation and arbitrary arrests of journalists
and the persistent climate of impunity is forcing them to censor
themselves. The SADC must prevent Zimbabwe from relapsing into another
period of harsh repression for independent media and journalists."
In one of the
latest cases, police in the southwestern city of Bulawayo arrested
Richard Muponde of the independent newspaper NewsDay on 28 July
and charged him with defaming Christopher Mangisi, a state employee
who is being prosecuted for allegedly swindling an elderly woman.
According to Mangisi, Muponde should have interviewed him before
writing his allegedly libellous article. The prosecutor eventually
dismissed the case for lack of evidence.
Five days before
Muponde's arrest, suspected supporters of Mugabe's ZANU-PF
party stormed into parliament during a meeting on 23 July between
legislators and civil society representatives to discuss a human
rights commission bill and assaulted
journalists who were covering the meeting including Aaron Ufumeli,
the senior photographer for Alpha Media, which publishes NewsDay,
The Independent and The Standard, and Lev Mukarati, a reporter for
the Financial Gazette weekly. None of the assailants was arrested.
day, two journalists with the privately-owned newspaper The Mail
(who are not being named for safety reasons) were threatened by
Brig. Douglas Nyikayaramba during an interview for which they had
obtained accreditation. They fled when Nyikayaramba threatened to
shoot them if they did not stop asking "inopportune"
questions. They had just mentioned a comment by parliamentarian
Tongai Matutu in which he called Nyikayaramba an "idiot."
Blessed Mhlanga was detained
on 20 July while taking photos in the central city of Kwekwe ahead
of the launch of Midlands Youth Dialogue, an initiative chaired
by US ambassador Charles A. Ray designed to promote political dialogue
among young people. The police erased his photos and took him to
Kwekwe police headquarters for questioning before releasing him.
Police in the
Bulawayo suburb of Ntabazinduna arrested
four journalists - Nqobani Ndlovu of The Standard, Daily News
stringers Pindai Dube and Oscar Nkala and freelancer Pamenos Tuso
- on 15 July for trying to cover the expulsion of a police
officer who had been fired for having songs expressing support for
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic
Change, the rival of Mugabe's ZANU-PF. They were freed after
being held for several hours at the police station.
of violence, intimidation and arbitrary arrest are all the more
alarming as the government recently threatened to arrest and jail
journalists who report what is discussed in cabinet meetings. It
was SW Radio Africa that revealed that this threat had been made,
but several sources have confirmed it to Reporters Without Borders.
that coverage of the fragile coalition government's internal
disputes could fuel public anger, officials seem to be preparing
to gag the media by using articles in the criminal code or the Official
Secrets Act, which bans disclosure of anything that may be "prejudicial
to the safety and the interests of Zimbabwe."
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