World Journalists Accuse Mugabe Over New Assault on Press Freedom After Three Arrests

The International Federation of Journalists today condemned the Zimbabwean government’s latest attack on press freedom and independent voices, which has seen the arrest of three journalists from a business and financial newspaper in Harare.

On 10 January, the editor of the weekly Independent newspaper, Iden Wetherell, news editor Vincent Kahiya and reporter Dumisani Muleya were arrested by local authorities, after the information minister, Jonathan Moyo, said their article had defamed President Mugabe. The journalists had reported that Mugabe had commandeered a passenger plane from Air Zimbabwe while he was vacationing in Asia with his family. All three journalists appeared in court Monday and were released on bail.

“This new assault on one of the few independent publications in the country is yet more proof of a systematic crackdown by the Mugabe regime on voices of dissent”, said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “Without public access to objective information, the door is open to human rights abuse without scrutiny”.

This latest action follow months of attacks against the Daily News and its journalists, which has been shut down for over four months and has remained under the constant threat and intimidation of local authorities. Police occupied the newspaper's offices in central Harare and its printing factory on 19 December after publishers won a legal ruling allowing them to publish and on 9 January, the high court again ruled that the paper could resume publishing but police refused to reopen the newspaper's print works.

The Daily News has been involved in a long-running wrangle with the authorities over registration under a new media law introduced in March 2002 – Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) – which has been widely condemned by press freedom groups worldwide and parts of which have already been struck down by Zimbabwean courts.

“The action against the Daily News is part of a long-running campaign against press freedom that is now being widened,” said White. “Journalists throughout the region and around the world demand justice for our colleagues in Zimbabwe. The international community must condemn the use of draconian laws and arbitrary executive measures to silence opposition opinions.”

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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries