A wave of attacks against leading journalists in Zimbabwe is a sign of “panic and growing crisis” within the regime of Robert Mugabe, says the International Federation of Journalists, the worlds’ largest journalists group, after news that the General Secretary of its affiliate organisation the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists tops a “hit-list” of targeted people drawn up by security chiefs.
Basildon Peta, a journalist for the Financial Gazette and a persistent critic of the government’s violations of press freedom, was detained for questioning by police last week. He is one of eight leading journalists who in recent days has been picked up for questioning or charged with offences ranging from criminal defamation of the police to defamation of the President.
“This campaign against journalists and independent media smacks of panic and growing crisis within government circles,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. He said that official rhetoric against independent journalists was a further sign of government disarray over how to deal with its internal crisis and deteriorating relations with governments abroad.
The IFJ criticised in particular a statement by Vice-President Simon Muzenda who threatened critical journalists with arrest as “intimidation of the worst kind”. White said: “As the world’s media gathers in Durban to report the UN conference on racism, they need look no further than the northern borders of South Africa for a prime example of intolerance in the modern world.”
The IFJ again called on the authorities to allow banned foreign media back into Zimbabwe and has pledged to provide practical support and assistance to journalists who are victimised by the Mugabe government. “We are calling for the widest possible media solidarity – involving journalists’ unions, editors and publishers the world over – to confront the crisis in Zimbabwe,” said the IFJ.