The International Federation of Journalist (IFJ) today called for the release of the freelance Zimbabwean journalist Frank Chikowore who was arrested on arson charges during an opposition strike. Authorities in Zimbabwe have cracked down on journalists in the country after the ruling party contested the results of presidential and parliamentary elections held almost three weeks ago.
“This media crackdown is a calculated attack on journalists who have revealed what appears to be the loss of the elections by the ruling party,” said Gabriel Baglo, the Director of IFJ Africa office. “We condemn these arrests and call for the authorities to release Chikowore immediately and unconditionally.”
Chikowore was arrested on 15 April in the capital Harare along with about 50 people while covering an opposition protest. He was charged with arson and police searched his house and confiscated a laptop, a recorder and a camera.
At least five other journalists have faced charges since the elections.
Today Jonathan Clayton the South Africa-base correspondent of British newspaper The Times was deported after his conviction for making false declaration on the motives of his presence in the country. Clayton was arrested on April 9 on arrival at the airport in Bulawayo in southwestern Zimbabwe. He was tried for violating the country’s immigration laws after he declared at the airport that he was a tourist. He was convicted and fined by a court on Tuesday.
Also in Bulawayo, the former broadcaster Margaret Kriel was jailed from April 10 to 14 before being released on bail without charge. Kriel is accused of having recently filed news reports without accreditation with her daughter, a journalist working for foreign media who has since left the country. Kriel, a well-known critic of the government has been writing on her blog Morning Mirror since 2002.
The IFJ says the authorities should stop harassing Kriel and allow her to work in total freedom.
In Harare, a court acquitted and freed on Wednesday New York Times correspondent Barry Bearak and British freelance journalist Stephen Bevan, who were tried for practicing journalism without accreditation. In a separate case, South African satellite technicians Sipho Moses Maseko and Abdulla Ismail Gaibbe, who were accused of covering the elections without accreditation among other charges, were acquitted on Monday and have left the country.
The authorities banned most foreign media coverage of the elections held on March 29. In the months before the election the government cracked down on local and national journalists, shutting down newspapers and allowing members of President Robert Mugabe’s political party to harass and attack journalists with impunity.
The IFJ is renewing its call on authorities to let the media work freely and safely without fear of reprisals for critical reporting.
For further information contact the IFJ: +221 33 842 01 43
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries