THE International Federation of Journalists, the world's largest organisation of journalists, today condemned the Government of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe for "creating a climate of fear, intimidation and violence to silence journalists and media". The IFJ says that democracy is facing extinction in Zimbabwe after the government intervened to break up a peaceful protest by the IFJ-affiliated Zimbabwe Union of Journalists over recent attacks on independent media.
"The sight of hundreds of police armed with rifles gathering to confront a handful of unarmed reporters and editors is a shocking indictment of the regime and illustrates the twilight nature of democracy in Zimbabwe," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary.
Police confronted about 50 protesters in outside the national press club in Harare and told them to disperse or they would use tear gas. Police sealed off the area, saying they were under orders to stop the march by force. Union leader Basildon Peta told his colleagues: "If we engage it will be a ratio of four policemen to one journalist."
The journalists were voicing their anger over a bomb attack on the printing works of the privately-owned Zimbabwe Daily News on 28 January. Earlier, Information Minister Jonathan Moyo said the newspaper was an opposition mouthpiece and a security threat.
Reporters from the independent media have frequently been detained and beaten in Zimbabwe in recent years as they become increasingly critical of President Robert Mugabe. In January, a group of ZANU-PF supporters and war veterans marched through the city centre in Harare protesting over the The Daily News. Windows at the paper were broken and the paper's Deputy News Editor, Julius Zava, was attacked.
The IFJ says the Government of Mr Mugabe must guarantee the safety of journalists: "Journalists and other staff fear for their lives. They are being targeted by Government supporters. The Government cannot duck its responsibilities".
The IFJ has called on its member organisations around the world to show solidarity with the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists, to protest directly to the Government of Zimbabwe and to urge their own governments to intervene.