THE International Press Institute (IPI) this week wrote to South African president Thabo Mbeki asking him to press Zimbabwe to “clarify fully” the circumstances of the death in the country of a Northern Ireland photojournalist, Richard Mills, a fortnight ago.
Mills, who was in the country on an undercover assignment, died on July 14 at a private address. He was a photojournalist for the Times in the UK and covered many dangerous assignments for the newspaper, including in Iraq and Afghanistan.
David Dadge, the director of IPI, asked Mbeki to do everything in his power to ensure that the Zimbabwean authorities clarify Millsâ€™ “mysterious” death.
The IPI is a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in over 120 countries.
In his letter, Dadge said: “According to information before IPI, Mills died under unknown circumstancesâ€¦ Millsâ€¦was in Zimbabwe on an undercover assignment that included interviewing, on the day of his death, a white farmer who was attacked after speaking out against
(President) Robert Mugabe.”
He said the photojournalist had planned to leave Zimbabwe on July 15.
“Instead, his family was informed that he had died and that the cause of his death was asphyxiation by hanging,” Dadge said.
Harare has been abuzz with rumours of a love triangle involving Mills, a female colleague and another journalist.
The IPI accused the Zimbabwe government of a notorious press freedom record, with local and foreign journalists having suffered countless attacks, both physical and judicial.
“Such a record triggers profound doubt about the Zimbabwean authoritiesâ€™ claims as to the cause of Millsâ€™ death. We therefore call on you to raise this incident in future discussions with Zimbabwean authorities, and to ensure that it is investigated both thoroughly and openly,” Dadgeâ€™s letter read.
Zimbabwe is considered to have some of the toughest media laws in the world. The hostile laws include the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Interception of Communications Act, the Broadcasting Services Act, the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, the Public Order and Security Act, and the Censorship and Control of Entertainment Act.
By Lucia Makamure