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Renewed clampdown on journalists
Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe (MMPZ)
Weekly Media Update 2007-12
Monday March 26th 2007 Sunday April 1st 2007

AS this report was being compiled, the British-based Independent (4/4) reported that the authorities' renewed clampdown on journalists had resulted in the murder of ZBC part-time cameraman Edward Chikomba. According to the paper, Chikomba was found dead in Darwendale over the weekend following his abduction from his Glen View home on Thursday (29/3).

Reportedly, his "captors drove a silver pick-up truck of the same make used in numerous similar abductions during a sustained three-week terror campaign targeting government opponents". Although the motive behind the murder was unclear, the paper suggested it was linked to "the smuggling out of the country of television pictures" of the badly injured opposition leaders who were beaten up by police in early March.

The private radio stations SW Radio Africa and Studio 7 (4/4) carried similar reports.

Earlier, several private electronic media (2/4) reported the arrest and assault in custody of The Zimbabwean correspondent, Gift Phiri. The police were reported to have initially accused Phiri of "petrol bombing police stations" but later changed the charge to "practising journalism without accreditation".

However, SW Radio Africa revealed that the journalist had applied for accreditation "some time ago but had received no response". Notably, under the country's repressive media laws, journalists can still practise while the government-appointed Media and Information Commission considers their application. But despite such provisions, Phiri's lawyer told the station that his client had been severely beaten up in custody and "forced to sign a warned and cautioned statement" admitting the allegations.

In another development, SW Radio Africa (2/4) reported that South African-based Time magazine reporter Alexander Perry was also arrested on Saturday and "held in Gwanda" for "allegedly entering the country without official media accreditation". The next day The Herald (3/4) reported that Perry had appeared before a Gwanda magistrate and had been convicted under the repressive Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) of practicing journalism without accreditation. He pleaded guilty and was fined $100, according to The Herald.

ZANU PF MP and youth leader Savious Kasukuwere appeared to expose the reasons behind such intolerance of the independent media. Asked by (29/3) to respond to claims that he was responsible for the brutal beatings of opposition leaders he was quoted threatening the agency: "I will deal with you traitors. You think we are going to continue letting you publish statements that are prejudicial to the Republic of Zimbabwe."

MMPZ condemns the appalling and illegal abduction and assault of civilians under any circumstances, and particularly the failure by the so-called public media to report such gross human rights abuses.

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