Last Updated: Tuesday, 02 September 2014, 10:50 GMT

Attacks on the Press in 2001 - Zimbabwe

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 2002
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 2001 - Zimbabwe, February 2002, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47c5665023.html [accessed 2 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

President Robert Mugabe was named to CPJ's list of the ten worst enemies of the press in 2001. Backed by his volatile minister of information and publicity, Jonathan Moyo, Mugabe harangued, insulted, threatened, and intimidated journalists throughout the year. Mugabe, his unpopularity growing at home, found himself increasingly isolated on the world stage as well, with his government threatened with sanctions from the European Union and expulsion from the Commonwealth.

As weary citizens braced themselves for elections in March 2002, Zimbabwe was torn by unprecedented social unrest. While journalists put themselves in harm's way to cover demonstrations, fuel and food shortages, and lawless takeovers of commercial farms, their government introduced harshly restrictive press legislation, expelled foreign correspondents, and accused independent journalists of "terrorism." Adding insult to injury, both Mugabe and Moyo filed defamation suits against independent newspapers last year.

Marauding "war veterans" were busy throughout the year, not only invading farms and intimidating political opponents of the government, but also menacing members of the independent media. The "veterans," most of them too young to have fought in the war of independence that ended two decades ago, routinely issued death threats against journalists, harassed vendors and destroyed copies of newspapers.

Earlier in the year, with the seeming collusion of the authorities, the "veterans" declared much of the country a "no-go" zone for the independent press. Journalists risked beatings or worse if they traveled to rural areas, and were largely restricted to covering the capital, Harare, and other large towns. As a result, the state-owned media largely controlled information in and from the countryside.

No case of press harassment was more shocking than the January 28 bomb attack on the printing press of the independent Daily News in Harare. It was the second bombing that the newspaper had suffered in less than a year. The attack came just a day after Moyo claimed that the Daily News posed a security risk to the nation and threatened to silence the paper "once and for all." In November CPJ awarded its International Press Freedom Award to Geoff Nyarota, editor-in-chief of the Daily News.

In February, the government expelled two foreign journalists, ostensibly because their work permits had expired. Soon after, the Department of Information and Publicity announced a freeze on new permits until a new accreditation system could be put in place. In June, the government imposed new restrictions on foreign journalists, requiring them to apply for accreditation a month before arriving in the country.

The government announced that it would not accept applications from foreign journalists already in the country, who would have to leave Zimbabwe and reapply from their own countries. The move was initially justified as a way of forcing foreign media companies to employ more Zimbabwean citizens. Later in the year, however, Moyo's ministry suspended the accreditation of all BBC correspondents covering Zimbabwe. Moyo accused the BBC and other foreign media companies of colluding with Zimbabwe's independent media and opposition politicians to discredit the government and incite violence.

The state's strained relationship with the press took a bizarre turn in August, when the independent Standard newspaper published a so-called hit list that was allegedly compiled by the Zimbabwe police and by the Central Intelligence Organization, which oversees internal security. The list featured several outspoken journalists.

Prompted by this dire situation, a delegation from CPJ visited Harare in July to meet with journalists and learn more about conditions in the country. The delegation met with over 60 journalists and expressed CPJ's commitment to supporting the Zimbabwean press.

In November, the state-owned Herald newspaper quoted an unnamed government official who accused six journalists based in Zimbabwe of participating in "terrorist" activities.

"Terrorism" and "national security" became recurring motifs after the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., with Moyo declaring that the United States and Great Britain had reacted to the attacks by limiting press freedoms in the name of national security. "If the most celebrated democracies in the world won't allow their national interests to be tampered with, we will not allow it, too," he said.

The controversial Broadcasting Act, first introduced as a temporary measure in 2000, was reintroduced and made law in April, even though the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional and a parliamentary committee declared it illegal. The act, which created a new state-controlled Broadcasting Authority, states that only Zimbabwean citizens are eligible for broadcast licenses.

The act also gives the minister of information and publicity sole authority to grant broadcast licenses and to impose additional conditions on a licensee beyond the set regulations. It provides for only one additional signal carrier to exist in the country in addition to the state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, and empowers both carriers to decline to transmit programming from a licensed broadcaster.

The Public Order and Security Bill (POSB), intended to replace the notorious Law and Order Maintenance Act (LOMA), was finally re-introduced in November. Although the POSB had originally been presented for Mugabe's signature in 2000, he refused to sign the bill because it was less far-reaching than he would have liked.

The revised bill nominally dealt with security issues relating to terrorism and treason. But according to a report in The Herald, it also imposes fines and imprisonment for making or publishing statements deemed "prejudicial to the state," or likely to create "hostility toward the president." Mugabe signed the bill in late January 2002. It came into force on January 22 through an official proclamation.

The highly anticipated Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Bill was approved for parliamentary debate before any of its provisions were made public. The initial draft bill would have required all journalists to be licensed by a state Media Commission, which would maintain a register of all journalists in the country. Only Zimbabwean citizens with journalism degrees would qualify.

The draft bill contained several other alarming provisions – for instance, that journalists could be fined or jailed if found to have "spread rumors, falsehoods or cause alarm and despondency under the guise of authentic reports."

Following protests from journalists, regional leaders, and members of the international community as well as members of Zimbabwe's Parliament – including some from the ruling party – a watered down version was finally passed on January 31, 2002. The new amendments were modest, however, extending media ownership to citizens or permanent residents, or to corporate bodies with citizens or permanent residents as the majority shareholders.

They further provided for citizens or permanent residents to be accredited as journalists, with a new provision that would permit foreign journalists to be accredited for a limited period.

Local and foreign journalists – including members of the newly formed Zimbabwe Foreign Correspondents Association – vowed to challenge the law in the Supreme Court, and to ignore the new requirements.

January 10
Tsvangirai Mukwazhi, The Daily News HARASSED

Mukhwazhi, a photographer with the independent, Harare-based Daily News, was accosted by prison and police officers outside the Norton Magistrate's Court. At the time of the incident, Mukhwazhi was attempting to photograph Anges Rusike, a leader of the government-sponsored movement to take over Zimbabwe's white-owned farms.

The officers grabbed Mukhwazhi's camera and exposed the film after he refused to surrender the camera. They also threatened to arrest him. Norton court magistrate Elizabeth Chaponda immediately criticized the officers, saying that she would not tolerate such "lawlessness."

Mukwazhi filed a complaint with the police. On February 14, three of the prison officers who had assaulted him were convicted of malicious injury to property and ordered to either replace the film they destroyed or spend 20 days in prison.

January 23
Julius Zava, Daily News ATTACKED
Daily News ATTACKED

Daily News reporter Zava was attacked by supporters of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF).

More than 500 ZANU-PF supporters marched on the offices of the independent paper Daily News to protest its coverage of the death of Laurent-Désiré Kabila, former president of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The newspaper had claimed that Kabila's death would be good for Zimbabwe, arguing that the country had suffered economic damage by supporting Kabila in the DRC's civil war.

The protesters broke windows and then attacked Zava, whom they recognized as a Daily News journalist. Zava was kicked to the ground but eventually managed to free himself and flee.

January 26
Mark Chavunduka, The Standard HARASSED

Chavunduka, editor of the independent weekly Standard, was summoned to police headquarters for questioning about an October 2000 story which reported that an opposition politician had filed a civil suit against President Robert Mugabe in the United States over state-sponsored violence during the 2000 parliamentary elections.

Chavunduka initially ignored the police requests, but finally presented himself on January 29. Police recorded his statement and told him he would be charged with criminal defamation.

At year's end, authorities had still not pursued the case.

January 28
Daily News ATTACKED

Shortly after Information Minister Jonathan Moyo described the independent Daily News as a threat to national security, bombs exploded at its printing presses in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare.

On January 27, Moyo threatened to silence the paper for allegedly posing a security risk to the nation.

The next morning at around 1:30 a.m., armed men overpowered the six-man security detail at the Daily News printing press. Explosives were scattered inside the building; they detonated about 15 minutes later, causing material damage estimated by CPJ sources at US$2 million. No one was hurt in the blast.

The Authentic MDC, a previously unknown group, claimed responsibility for the bombing in a handwritten note found at the scene of the explosion, according to news reports. The note criticized the Daily News for siding with the "racist white minority" in the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

CPJ protested the bomb attack in a January 29 letter to President Robert Mugabe, noting that the Daily News editorial offices were also bombed in April 2000.

January 29
The Herald CENSORED

Angry youths attacked vendors selling the state-owned newspaper The Herald in the town of Chitungwiza. The youths were protesting a bomb attack against the printing press of the independent Daily News the day before (see January 28 case).

The protesters declared a de facto ban on The Herald and threatened to attack anyone who brought copies into the area.

Also in Chitungwiza, on January 27, a Herald distribution van driver was assaulted by more than 150 people believed to be supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. The rioters burned nearly 4,000 copies of the paper.

An unspecified number of copies of The Herald were also destroyed in nearby Karoi and Harare.

February 15
Mercedes Sayagues, Mail and Guardian
Expelled

Sayagues, Harare correspondent for the South African weekly Mail and Guardian, was ordered to leave the country within 24 hours, according The Herald, a government-owned newspaper. The decision to expel Sayagues came after authorities announced a clampdown on permits for foreign journalists working in Zimbabwe.

Officials said no extensions of work permits for foreign correspondents would be allowed until the newly created Department of Information and Publicity, which replaced the Ministry of Information, had developed a new system for accrediting journalists.

Authorities set no deadline for finalizing the new accreditation regime.

Sayagues is a citizen of Uruguay who had been working in Zimbabwe since 1992. Her last Temporary Employment Permit (TEP), the annual document allowing her to work in the country as a foreign correspondent, expired on December 31, 2000 but the government had given her an interim extension valid until February 26. On February 14, Sayagues left Harare on a visit to South

Africa, where she learned from local news reports that Zimbabwean authorities had decided not to renew her work permit, and to expel her within 24 hours. She was never officially notified of this decision.

Sayagues had written extensively about corruption in the government, and had documented torture and human rights abuses perpetrated by the ruling ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe.

In addition to the new rules freezing work permits for foreign journalists, Zimbabwean officials announced their intention to introduce measures banning foreign investment in the local media.

On Tuesday February 20, The Herald reported that the government had banned Sayagues and the BBC's Joseph Winter from ever entering Zimbabwe again. According to the report, the Chief Immigration Officer, Elasto Mugwadi confirmed that Sayagues and Winter were "prohibited immigrants" who had "compromised their positions" as journalists.

Mugwadi added that their organizations were free to send other people to fill their positions. This followed government allegations that Sayagues was working as a UNITA agent during her stay in Zimbabwe.

On July 16, Sayagues filed a legal challenge with the High Court of Zimbabwe, arguing that her deportation was illegal. But the case appeared to have stalled as of December 27, as Zimbabwe geared up for presidential election scheduled for March 2002.

April 1
Pedzisai Ruhanya, Daily News HARASSED

Ruhanya, a reporter for the independent, Harare-based Daily News, was barred from covering a meeting of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF).

As Ruhanya entered the meeting, he was stopped by two self-described war veterans who recognized him as a Daily News reporter. They accused him of spying for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change party and for the National Constitutional Assembly, a coalition of civic groups.

The war veterans manhandled the reporter and confiscated his press card. According to journalists at the Daily News, the veterans also tried to intimidate Ruhanya into resigning from the newspaper.

April 3
Zimbabwe Independent LEGAL ACTION

Jonathan Moyo, the minister of state for information and publicity, sought to have the Zimbabwe Independent barred from covering his upcoming trial on embezzlement charges brought by the Ford Foundation.

Moyo's complaint alleged that the Independent's coverage had defamed him. The judge directed the newspaper to "show cause why it should not be stopped from publishing stories" about the lawsuit. The complaint cited Independent reporter Dumisani Muleya as the first respondent. The editor of the paper, Iden Wetherell, and its publishers are cited as the second and third respondents, respectively.

On April 17, Justice Moses Chinhengo dismissed the case after ruling that the Independent was within its rights to report on the fraud allegations pending against Moyo.

April 4
Geoff Nyarota, Daily News LEGAL ACTION
Sandra Nyaira, Daily News LEGAL ACTION
Julius Zava, Daily News LEGAL ACTION

Daily News editor Nyarota and two of his reporters, Nyaira and Zava, were charged with criminal defamation of President Robert Mugabe and parliamentary speaker Emmerson Mnangagwa. All three journalists denied the charges in statements recorded at a police station in the capital, Harare.

The charges arose from Daily News stories, published in November and December 2000, that linked Mugabe and Mnangagwa to payments made by Air Harbour Technologies in order to secure a contract to build a new international airport in Harare.

The three journalists were charged under the Law and Order Maintenance Act. No trial date had been set as of December 31.

June 6
"Talk to the Nation" CENSORED

The weekly television chat show "Talk to the Nation" was banned after only three broadcasts because callers criticized President Robert Mugabe on the air.

Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) chairman Gideon Gono wrote to the show's sponsor saying that the live phone-in television program had been canceled for "policy" reasons. The program was sponsored by a pro-government civic organization, the National Development Assembly (NDA).

Independent journalists in Zimbabwe charge that ZBC managers pulled the plug on "Talk to the Nation" because callers had openly criticized the government and asked for President Mugabe's resignation. The cancellation came immediately after the program aired a heated exchange over Zimbabwe's economy between an opposition lawmaker and a member of Parliament from the ruling ZANU-PF party.

Callers also criticized the Zimbabwean government over the country's disastrous economic situation.

In a June 6 article in the independent Daily News, NDA official Kindness Paradza was quoted as saying, "I do not know the reason for the action, but the best person to ask is Jonathan Moyo."

Moyo, who was once a professor of political science and a frequent contributor to local and international publications, has been Zimbabwe's information minister since June 2000. In this capacity, he has frequently clashed with the country's small independent press. Critics allege that the order to cancel "Talk to the Nation" came from his office.

June 12
Tsvangirai Mukwazhi, Daily News HARASSED

Mukwazhi, a photographer for the independent, Harare-based Daily News, was arrested and taken to Harare's central police station, where he was charged with conduct likely to breach the peace.

At the time of his arrest, Mukwazhi was taking pictures of students protesting a government decision to increase enrollment fees for the next university term.

The police confiscated Mukwazhi's equipment and forced him to pay a fine. He was then released.

July 19
Patrick Mwale, Daily News HARASSED
Muchaneta Manyengavana, Financial Gazette HARASSED

Mwale, a reporter for the independent Daily News, and Manyengavana, a reporter for the independent weekly Financial Gazette, were ejected from a land resettlement meeting by Manicaland provincial governor Oppar Muchinguri.

The two journalists were sent to cover the meeting, which included government officials and so-called war veterans, in Mutare, the capital of Manicaland Province. When the journalists arrived, Muchinguri informed them that they needed to leave because government officials were going to discuss sensitive issues.

The two were apparently singled out as reporters from independent newspapers, since journalists from state media outlets such as the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, the Zimbabwe Inter Africa News Agency, and The Herald were allowed to stay.

According to the Daily News, as the journalists left the meeting, several war veterans approached them in a threatening manner. Muchinguri intervened immediately and ensured that the journalists were able to leave the building without further harassment.

Daily News LEGAL ACTION

The independent Daily News was forbidden from publishing further reports on the assets and property of Ibbo Mandaza, editor of the Zimbabwe Mirror, an independent weekly that tends to support the government of President Robert Mugabe.

On July 6, the Daily News published a front-page story about Mandaza's vast land holdings, accompanied by an aerial photograph of property. The newspaper reported that Mandaza had refused to disclose how he was able to acquire the land.

According to Mandaza's lawyer, James Tomana, the Daily News story was tantamount to an invasion of his client's privacy. Tomana also said that his client was considering instituting defamation proceedings because the paper allegedly implied that Mandaza had acquired his properties by embezzling funds from the Southern Africa Regional Institute of Policy Studies, of which Mandaza is the executive director.

July 25
BBC CENSORED

On July 25, the Department of Information and Publicity suspended the accreditation of all BBC correspondents in Zimbabwe.

In a letter to the BBC bureau chief in Johannesburg, Information Minister Jonathan Moyo said the suspension resulted from the BBC journalists' "deliberately unethical and unprofessional conduct" and their attempts to "give a false impression that there is no rule of law in Zimbabwe."

The suspension came in the wake of BBC reporter Rageh Omaar's coverage of the official opening of Parliament by President Robert Mugabe on July 24. Omaar reported that Mugabe "vowed to continue with the forcible acquisition of white farmlands."

In his letter, Moyo maintained that "those words were nowhere in the President's speech," and that Mugabe had "made it clear that land would be acquired as it had been, in terms of the laws of Zimbabwe." In his letter Moyo stated, "There is a world of difference between 'forcible acquisition' and 'lawful acquisition.'"

Moyo's letter also alleged "unprofessional and unethical collusion" between the BBC and Iden Wetherell, the editor of the Zimbabwe Independent. In April, Moyo sued the Zimbabwe Independent and Wetherell in an attempt to prevent them from reporting on embezzlement charges filed against Moyo in Kenya by the Ford Foundation. The court ruled in favor of Wetherell and the newspaper.

The BBC stood by Omaar's story.

August 15
Geoff Nyarota, Daily News LEGAL ACTION, HARASSED
John Gambanga, Daily News LEGAL ACTION, HARASSED
Bill Saidi, Daily News LEGAL ACTION, HARASSED
Sam Munyavi, Daily News LEGAL ACTION, HARASSED

At 12:15 a.m., police arrested Daily News editor-in-chief Nyarota at his home in Harare. The police detained Daily News reporter Munyavi, editor Gambanga, and assistant editor Saidi. All four journalists were taken to the Central Police Station in Harare.

Nyarota and Saidi were charged with "publishing false information likely to cause alarm or despondency in the public" under Section 50, (2)(a) of the draconian Law and Order Maintenance Act (LOMA), according to CPJ sources at The Daily News. The charge carries a maximum prison sentence of seven years.

The arrests of the Daily News journalists followed an article by Munyavi, published the day before, reporting that police vehicles had been used in the looting of white farms in Mhangura, a town in Zimbabwe's West Province. Officers from the Law and Order Division of the Harare police visited the newsroom at around 8 a.m. on August 14 to protest the story.

The four journalists were released on the evening of August 15 after their lawyers argued that the charges were unconstitutional.

The next day, the four journalists were called back to the police station. Nyarota was interrogated again. Police then charged all four journalists with "publishing subversive material" under Section 44 of LOMA.

On August 15, CPJ published an alert about the arrests. A CPJ delegation visited Harare from July 11 to 14 to assess press freedom conditions during the run-up to next year's general elections. The delegation, which included board member Clarence Page, deputy director Joel Simon, and Africa program coordinator Yves Sorokobi, met with dozens of journalists from various media.

The charges were still pending at year's end.

August 21
Wallace Chuma, Zimbabwe Mirror HARASSED
Constantine Chimakure, Zimbabwe Mirror HARASSED

On August 21, Harare police summoned news editor Wallace Chuma and reporter Constantine Chimakure of the independent weekly Zimbabwe Mirror to record a "warn and caution" statement.

Authorities questioned the two journalists for about an hour in connection with an August 17 article titled "War Vets Forced Us to Loot – Farm Workers." The article reported on complaints by agricultural workers in Mashonaland West Province that police were helping so-called independence war veterans to orchestrate attacks on local farms.

Police told Chuma and Chimakure that they faced charges of "publishing materials likely to cause alarm and despondency" under the draconian Law and Order Maintenance Act.

However, the charges were not pursued. Zimbabwean sources speculated that Mirror editor Ibbo Mandaza may have used his connections with government officials to get the charges dropped.

August 22
Mark Chavunduka, The Standard HARASSED

Chavunduka, editor of the independent weekly The Standard, was called into Harare Central Police Station to record a so-called warn and caution statement. According to sources at The Standard, the summons came in response to an August 19 Standard article that was reprinted from the London-based Sunday Times.

The story, titled "Paranoid Mugabe Dines With Ghost," reported that President Robert Mugabe felt haunted by the ghost of a leader in the independence movement who died in a suspicious car accident more than 20 years ago. According to the article, many Zimbabweans believe that Mugabe was linked to the death of Josiah Tongogara, a charismatic guerrilla leader who was widely expected to win the 1980 presidential election.

Police told Chavunduka, who was accompanied to the station by Standard lawyer Innocent Chagonda, that he faced criminal defamation charges and would be summoned to court if the attorney general decided to prosecute. Police declined to name the complainant but stated categorically that it was neither President Robert Mugabe nor Information Minister Jonathan Moyo.

According to an article that appeared in The Standard on August 19, Chavunduka's name appeared, along with those of several other journalists, on a "hit list" compiled by the law and order section of the Zimbabwe Police and the Central Intelligence Organization ahead of the 2002 presidential election. Details surrounding the alleged hit list were murky, however, and CPJ was unable to verify its existence.

August 27
Mduduzi Mathuthu, Daily News ATTACKED

Mathuthu, correspondent for the independent Daily News in the northern city of Bulawayo, was attacked by supporters of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Unity Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF).

Mathuthu was covering a confrontation between a local farmer and ZANU-PF supporters, including several so-called war veterans. When the ZANU-PF contingent recognized the journalist, they began beating him with clubs and ax handles.

During the assault, Mathuthu was accused of writing negative stories about Zimbabwe's controversial policy of forcibly redistributing white-owned land to black farmers. Although police were present, they did not intervene.

Mathuthu managed to escape when several farmers came to his aid and surrounded him, allowing him to get to a car and drive away. He reported the incident to the police and later sought treatment for chest pains and a cut above his eye.

September 8
Mduduzi Mathuthu, Daily News HARASSED
Loughty Dube, Zimbabwe Independent HARASSED

Mathuthu, a correspondent for the independent Daily News, and Dube, a reporter for the Zimbabwe Independent, were arrested by police in the northern city of Bulawayo and detained for an hour.

The two journalists had gone to Bulawayo Central Police Station to get information on the arrest of three bodyguards of David Coltart, an MP for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. The bodyguards had been arrested for allegedly possessing a two-way radio without a proper license.

The journalists arrived at the police station in the evening and immediately asked to speak to the chief inspector. According to Zimbabwean sources, when the inspector met with the journalists, he accused them of trespassing on private property and told them they were under arrest.

Police then confiscated the journalists' press cards in what local sources say was an attempt to curtail their coverage of the mayoral and ward elections. Officials later returned the press cards.

September 17
Mduduzi Mathuthu, Daily News ATTACKED
Collin Chiwanza, Daily News ATTACKED
Urgina Mauluka, Daily News ATTACKED

Reporters Mathuthu and Chiwanza and photographer Mauluka, all of the independent Daily News, and their driver were assaulted by so-called war veterans in Hwedza, a town southeast of the capital, Harare.

The three journalists went to a farm in Hwedza to cover the story of two war veterans who had recently died in clashes with white farmers. Near the farm, they were stopped at a checkpoint manned by war veterans.

In an attempt to avert trouble, Chiwanza told the men at the checkpoint that he and his colleagues worked for the state-owned Herald. Though all three reporters were allowed to enter the farm, they were soon asked for identification and recognized as reporters for the Daily News.

Several war veterans then converged on the journalists and their driver, accusing them of being British or opposition Movement for Democratic Change agents, and began beating them severely.

Though police were present at the scene, a soldier from the Zimbabwean army who had been sent to protect the farm stopped the assault by threatening the assailants with his gun. The three journalists and the driver suffered from minor injuries. During the melee, the war veterans confiscated the reporters' equipment.

Sources in Harare said the Daily News journalists were apparently singled out, since journalists from the state-owned Herald newspaper and from the state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation were not harassed. Sources also reported that some of the state journalists and a number of war veterans arrived at the scene in government vehicles.

Police eventually returned the journalists' equipment, but not the money that had been in their wallets.

November 8
Geoff Nyarota, The Daily News HARASSED, LEGAL ACTION
Wilf Mbanga, The Daily News HARASSED, LEGAL ACTION

Shortly after 6:00 a.m., plainclothes police officers picked up Nyarota, editor of The Daily News, Zimbabwe's only independent daily newspaper, and Wilf Mbanga, the former chief executive officer of the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), the company that publishes the newspaper, from their homes in Harare and took them to the headquarters of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).

Neither man was informed of the charges against him, local sources said.

The arrests apparently stemmed from a dispute regarding ANZ's legal registration forms. Authorities alleged that the company filed a fraudulent license application to the Zimbabwe Investment Center. The allegation was based on the fact that ANZ had listed its former company name as "Motley Investment," a nonexistent entity.

Sources at The Daily News, however, say the mistake was a clerical error made by the consulting company that filed the application on behalf of ANZ. The name of the former company should have been listed as "Motley Trading," in which Nyarota and Mbanga were the major shareholders.

Although the consultants issued documents confirming the error to the Daily News' lawyers, authorities continued to detain Nyarota and Mbanga.

Nyarota and Mbanga were also accused of contravening the terms of their license, which was allegedly for a weekly publication.

Though the newspaper's lawyers submitted an urgent application for their release, Nyarota and Mbanga spent the night in jail. The next morning, both men appeared before a judge and were charged with fraud. They were released on bail of 10,000 Zimbabwean dollars each (approximately US$187) and were due to appear in court again on November 28, at which time they were to surrender all of their travel documents.

The Media Institute of Southern Africa reported on November 19 that a Harare judge had dismissed the charges against Nyarota and Mbanga. According to sources at the Daily News, the bail requirements for Nyarota and Mbanga were withdrawn, and their bail money was refunded.

November 30
Cyrus Nhara, Artvak Productions ATTACKED
The Daily News ATTACKED
Financial Gazette ATTACKED
The Zimbabwe Independent ATTACKED

Nhara, a photographer for the local news agency Artvak Productions, was assaulted by a mob of pro-government demonstrators outside the Munhumutapa Building, which houses the president's office, in the capital, Harare.

The same assailants, many of whom appeared to be drunk, later attacked the offices of the independent Daily News, smashing windows and ripping up several hundred copies of the paper. They then proceeded to the building housing the private weekly Financial Gazette before ending their rampage at the weekly Zimbabwe Independent, whose facilities were also damaged.

Nhara was beaten with fists, bottles, and sticks. He sustained bruises on his face and only managed to escape by jumping on to a moving car. Attackers, who also stripped him of his shoes and glasses, destroyed his film of the demonstrations.

Copyright notice: © Committee to Protect Journalists. All rights reserved. Articles may be reproduced only with permission from CPJ.

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