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crackdown targets Daily News and Media Monitoring Project
December 08, 2011
Borders is outraged and alarmed by a new crackdown in the past week
on independent news media and free speech activists in Zimbabwe.
The offices of the Media
Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe (MMPZ) were raided, its director
was arrested and three
of its members are still being held in the southwest of the country.
Two journalists with The Daily News, an independent Harare-based
newspaper, were also detained for several hours.
since the national
unity government's installation in February 2009, Zimbabwe
has swung between spells of relative freedom and returns to the
past," Reporters Without Borders said. "This week's
intimidation, searches and harassment targeting independent media
and those who defend free expression show that the authorities are
taking a tougher line. They are trying to discourage journalists
from doing their job and restrict their ability to inform the public.
enjoy no protection. The country's draconian media legislation
has not been relaxed. The police and intelligence services still
cling to their old repressive tendencies. We urge the authorities
to let journalists work, to free all of the MMPZ members still held,
and to drop all the charges against them."
Andrew Moyse was arrested in his Harare office on 6 December by
five members of the Law and Order section of the police on suspicion
of "publishing or communicating falsehoods prejudicial to
the state" under section 31 of the Codification
and Reform Act. After being held for several hours at Harare
police headquarters, he was released in the evening.
The police seized documents,
DVDs and videos in a search of MMPZ headquarters the same day. According
to their search warrant, they were looking for material with information
about an armed uprising in the west of the country in the 1980s.
Three MMPZ representatives
- Gilbert Mabusa, a member of its Public Information Rights
Forum, and advocacy officers Fadzai December and Molly Chimhanda
- were arrested in the southwestern city of Gwanda on 5 December
for organizing a civic education workshop in Gwanda on 24 November.
They have been
charged with violating section 25 of the Public
Order and Security Act by failing to notify the police of their
intention to organize the workshop, although it was not a public
meeting, and with "participating in a gathering with intent
to promote public violence, breaches of the peace or bigotry"
under the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
They are also accused
of distributing illegal material in the form of a DVD that urges
the media to help ensure that elections are peaceful by providing
fair, accurate and balanced coverage of the elections campaigns
of the different parties.
The three free speech
activists have remained in custody ever since their arrest. A bail
hearing is scheduled for tomorrow.
of the MMPZ was preceded by police and judicial attempts to intimidate
the staff of The Daily News. Reporter Xolisani Ncube was arrested
at the newspaper at 9:15 a.m. on 2 December and was taken to Harare
police headquarters. When editor Stanley Gama later went to police
headquarters with his lawyer, Alec Muchadehama, in response to a
summons, he was also arrested. Ncube and Gama were finally released
They have been charged
with libel under the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act
in connection with an article about local government minister Ignatious
Chombo that was published in early November and was headlined "Chombo
brags about wealth."
Last month, the police
ransacked the premises of The Standard on 11 November and, four
days later, arrested editor Nevanji Madanhire and one of his reporters,
Nqaba Matshazi, in connection with a 6 November article reporting
that a health insurance company owned by Munyaradzi Kereke, a senior
advisor to the governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, was facing
The two journalists were
brought before judge Sandra Mupindu and were released on bail pending
trial on 20 December on charges of with stealing documents from
the health insurance company and criminal defamation of Kereke.
The police went back to The Standard on 18 November saying they
wanted to speak to Madanhire in connection with an article published
on 1 October.
Kereke, the health insurance
company owner, has meanwhile sued The Standard for 9 million dollars
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