World's journalists call for release of jailed Zimbabwean

The International Federation of Journalists has called for the immediate release of Zimbabwean journalist Basildon Peta who has been arrested under the newly enacted Public Order and Security Act. Peta is the Secretary-General of the Zimbabwean Union of Journalists as well as the local correspondent for the London Independent newspaper. He was arrested on Monday and is being held in the central police station in Harare. He is expected to appear in court later today [Tuesday] Zimbabwe time. He has been charged with failing to notify the authorities about a demonstration last Wednesday by the journalists' union against the new legislation. He could be jailed for two years under the legislation. The IFJ - which represents about 500,000 journalists in 105 countries, including Zimbabwe - has called on the President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe to immediately intervene to release Peta. It has also written to both the Commonwealth of Nations and the Australian Government calling on them to reconsider the invitation to Zimbabwe to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Queensland next month in light of the deterioration of press freedom in the country. IFJ President Christopher Warren said the arrest of Peta marked a serious setp backwards in democracy in Zimbabwe. "I know Peta and I know how committed he is to the principles of journalism. Like many of his friends around the world I am personally distressed at this attack both on him and on press freedom in Zimbabwe," he said. Warren said the IFJ would be calling on journalists and journalists organisations around the world to protest at the jailing.