IFJ Urges South African President to Ensure Mediation in Zimbabwe Will End Media Repression

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today urged South African President, Thabo Mbeki, who is acting as mediator in the Zimbabwean crisis, to ensure that the government stops its campaign of media repression that has included recent arrests, detentions and assaults on journalists in the country.

“The Zimbabwean government cannot be allowed to continue these systematic attacks and intimidation of journalists in the country to silence the coverage of political tension,” said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa Office. “We call on South African President, Thabo Mbeki, the mediator in the Zimbabwean crisis, to intervene to end media repression in the country.”

The latest victims of the crackdown are three freelance journalists, one of whom is still in detention.

Frank Chikowore has been jailed since April 15. He has been charged with “public violence” and was denied bail on Tuesday. He will remain in detention until his trial on May 5. Chikowore was arrested with a group of other people while he was covering an opposition strike.

Stanley Karombo was detained from April 18 to 21 and has been forced to pay a 14.000.000 Zimbabwe Dollars (US $450) admission of guilt fine. According to the Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA) Karombo was arrested by security agents on April 18 at Gwanzura Stadium in the capital city, Harare, while taking notes during Zimbabwe's independence celebrations. He was charged with “conduct likely to cause public disorder.”

Sydney Saize was reportedly acquitted on Tuesday after a prosecutor declined to prosecute him for publishing false news and working without accreditation due to lack of evidence. Saize was put on trial in relation to a report he filed in January 2006 saying some ruling party members had beaten teachers in Zimbabwe's eastern city of Mutare.

In recent weeks the government of President Robert Mugabe has cracked down on journalists in the country in the midst of political unrest.

Besides the three Zimbabwean journalists, at least five foreign media workers were arrested for their coverage of tensions in the country after the presidential and parliamentary elections held on March 29. Four were acquitted of the charges brought against them and have since left the country. One was convicted of making a false declaration on an immigration form and deported.

The IFJ is supporting its member, the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists, and other media organisations in their protests over government attacks on the media.

“Protecting press freedom is of crucial importance right now,” Baglo said. “President Mbeki must recognize that the people of Zimbabwe have a right to unbiased and independent reports and journalists should be allowed to work freely without any form of intimidation or fear of government retribution.”

For further information contact the IFJ: +221 33 842 01 43
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries