Actors, journalist arrested over Zim play

A journalist and two actors were arrested in Zimbabwe during a satirical play making fun of the country’s political situation, press freedom group Reporters sans Frontières said on Tuesday.

The non-governmental international organisation said plainclothes police stormed a theatre in central Harare on Friday night during a performance of The Final Push.

The group said police “led actors Sylvanos Mudzvova and Anthony Tongani away to a truck. James Jemwa, an independent journalist who was filming the performance, was also arrested when he asked the police to explain why the actors were being detained.”

The title of the play refers to protest marches organised by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in 2003, which were violently dispersed by the police, and the NGO said authorities are now “escalating repression”.

“With the privately owned press already under permanent threat, the police are now targeting the theatre,” the press-freedom organisation said in a statement on Tuesday. “This case is a spectacular illustration of the government’s despotic behaviour.”

Neither the theatre nor Zimbabwean police could be reached to confirm or comment on the arrests.

The arrests come after reports that intelligence services had drawn up a blacklist of 15 journalists to be watched in the run-up to presidential and parliamentary elections to be held next year.

While the authenticity of the list is not verified, International Federation of Journalists general secretary Aidan White said the government must “make it clear to the international community that it is not targeting journalists”.—Sapa-AFP

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