THE board of the World Association of Newspapers, meeting at the 61st World Newspaper Congress in GÃ¶teborg, Sweden, from June 1-4, strongly condemns widespread press freedom violations in Zimbabwe.
WAN calls on the Zimbabwean authorities to cease the intimidation of media and to allow both domestic and foreign journalists to exercise their right to inform the Zimbabwean and international public of events in the country.
Recent press freedom violations in Zimbabwe include:
New York Times correspondent Barry Bearak and British freelance journalist Stephen Bevan were arrested on April 3 on charges of working without accreditation and held until April 7 when they were released on bail. The two journalists were held in detention despite an order to release them from the Attorney Generalâ€™s office.
Freelance journalist Frank Chikowore was arrested on April 15 and charged with “public violence” for allegedly participating in the burning of a bus by opposition supporters. He was released on bail on May 2.
Reuters photographer Howard Burditt was arrested on May 5 and held in custody for three days allegedly for using a satellite phone to send pictures.
Freelance journalist Stanley Karombo was arrested on April 19 while he was taking notes during a speech given by President Mugabe at an Independence Day event in a Harare suburb. Karombo was held incommunicado until April 21, when he was released. Initially the police accused him of violating the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa), which was later turned into accusations of “disturbing the peace”.
Prominent media lawyer Harrison Nkomo was arrested on May 7 and charged on May 9 with “undermining the authority or insulting the authority of the head of state” after he had allegedly told a state court officer that President Mugabe should step down. Nkomo defended New York Times correspondent Barry Bearak who was arrested in early April.
Davison Maruziva, editor of The Standard newspaper, was arrested on May 8 and charged on May 9 with “publishing false statements prejudicial to the state and contempt of court” after the publication of a column by opposition leader Arthur Mutambara in The Standard, which criticised the regime of President Mugabe.
The chief executive officer of the government-controlled Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation Henry Muradzikwa was fired on May 14, allegedly for defying ministerial orders to deny the opposition political party, the Movement for Democratic Change, favourable coverage in the run-up to the presidential elections. He was also reportedly accused of denying President Mugabe favourable coverage.
The government banned most foreign media from covering the general elections.
WAN calls on the Zimbabwean authorities to put an end to arbitrary arrests and detentions of journalists, to firmly commit to the rule of law and to uphold international standards of freedom of expression and freedom of the press in Zimbabwe.