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Zim on world’s top press tyrannies list

Gift Phiri

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s government was this week named among the world’s top press tyrannies in a new list compiled by Paris-based media watchdog, Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Front

ieres, RSF).

The consignment of Harare to the league of media rogues was contained in the RSF’s third annual press freedom index announced at its board meeting in Paris on Tuesday.

This came as government was stepping up pressure against the few remaining private newspapers in the country. The attacks include the harassment and arrest of journalists, unwarranted threats against the private press and newspaper vendors to limit circulation. RSF said it was worried about countries that were on an unrelenting campaign to extinguish press freedom at all costs.

In naming Zimbabwe 155th out of 167 media tyrants in the world, RSF said there was “no progress in Eritrea and Zimbabwe, but more and more African countries (were) climb(ing) into the top half of the ranking”.The group said the breakdown of the rule of law and the prevailing anarchy allowed impunity for perpetrators of violence against the media.

“Since the repeated attacks by the authorities on the Daily News, the independent press has been reduced to one or two weeklies with a limited circulation,” RSF said. “At the same time although general elections are due in 2005, the government has banned the opposition party from being allowed any access to the state media.”

Government, apparently annoyed by the unflinching exposure of its failures, is currently working on amendments to the repressive Access to Information and Protection of Privacy (Aippa) Act. It is widely feared the amended media law will give the Information minister more sweeping powers and virtually criminalise the journalism profession. The minister already wields immense powers under the principal Act. While authorities persist with their scorched-earth assault on the independent media, those who bombed the Daily News and many other physical aggressors against journalists have not been brought to book although some of them are known.President Mugabe has also been included by the New York-based press freedom pressure group, Committee to Protect Journalists, in the top 10 global enemies of press freedom. Mugabe is ranked number four on the league of media despots.

Meanwhile, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) are honouring journalists from Zimbabwe next month for their courage in defending the right to a free press. CJFE will on November 17 present its International Press Freedom Award to Zimbabwe’s independent newspaper the Daily News at its annual CJFE Awards dinner in Toronto, Canada.

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