IFJ Calls on Mugabe to Lift "terror siege" After Bombing of Newspaper

THE International Federation of Journalists, the world's largest organisation of journalists, today demanded that Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe intervene to lift "a siege of terror" on The Daily News, an independent paper that suffered a bomb attack on Sunday.

"Journalists and other staff now fear for their lives", said the IFJ, "the government must give absolute guarantees for their safety."

The attack, on the paper's printing plant, caused no injuries, it was the second bombing of the paper and follows street demonstrations against the journalists by supporters of the ruling ZANU-PF party. They accuse the paper of "unpatriotic coverage".

"This campaign against The Daily News now smacks of an officially sanctioned siege of opinion that government supporters would like silenced," said the IFJ, "it is censorship by violence and must be stopped immediately."

The Daily News has published wide-ranging allegations of corruption and mismanagement against President Robert Mugabe's 20-year-old government. Officials who have become increasingly critical of the newspaper's independent stance have, on several occasions, threatened to "close it down".

The Daily News was first bombed on 22 April 2000, when a powerful device exploded in an art gallery on the ground floor of the newspaper's offices in the city centre. The art gallery was situated directly below the office of editor-in-chief Geoff Nyarota.

This latest action is part of a stepped up campaign by ZANU-PF supporters against the newspaper to shut it down. On 23 January, a group of ZANU-PF supporters and war veterans marched through the city centre in Harare shouting profanities and insults at The Daily News. They broke some windows of the newspaper and attacked the newspaper's Deputy News Editor, Julius Zava.

On 26 January, ZANU-PF supporters publicly announced that they had declared war on The Daily News over what they called "unpatriotic coverage" of issues. Angry ZANU-PF supporters are reported to have pounced on vendors, confiscated copies of the newspaper and burnt them in front of the state television cameras.