Media bodies in Zimbabwe on Wednesday deplored a government crackdown on journalists and warned the safety of reporters was under threat in the aftermath of last month’s disputed elections.
”The security and safety of journalists is under serious threat in this country judging by the trends in recent weeks. We condemn the deliberate attempts to muzzle the media,” said Takura Zhangazha, spokesperson for the Zimbabwe chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa.
Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) secretary general Foster Dongozi said: ”We are concerned about the crackdown on journalists.
”Journalists have been abducted, beaten and illegally detained and we condemn this abuse of power.”
The unions said freelance journalist Stanley Karombo was detained for three days after state security agents took him away from a football stadium in Harare, where President Robert Mugabe was giving a keynote speech for independence day.
ZUJ president Matthew Takaona was beaten up by soldiers in Harare’s dormitory town of Chitungwiza where he had gone to buy the staple cornmeal.
Former ZUJ secretary general Luke Tamborinyoka, who is now director of information for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), and freelance journalist Frank Chikowore were charged with public violence along with scores of opposition activists and denied bail.
They were arrested during a strike called by the MDC to force the release of last month’s presidential election results.
”This is clearly to strike fear in the hearts of journalists,” Dongozi said.
”Our fear is that as we go to the presidential run-off the state will step up its crackdown to ensure that whatever corruption and misdeeds are happening go unreported.”
The incidents came at the back of arrests of New York Times correspondent Barry Bearak and a 45-year-old British freelance journalist who were accused of reporting on Zimbabwe’s March 29 election without accreditation.
Another journalist, the Times of London‘s Africa correspondent Jonathan Clayton, was detained on arrival at Bulawayo Airport and held in prison for eight days before being deported to South Africa.
Meanwhile, Mugabe’s party won in the first of 23 constituencies to complete a recount of votes from last month’s general elections, Zimbabwe’s state media said on Wednesday.
Mugabe’s Zanu-PF was confirmed as the winner of both the election for a seat in Parliament and the largely symbolic senate in the Goromonzi West constituency, a rural district near the capital, the government mouthpiece Herald newspaper reported.
While recounts in 21 of the constituencies were ordered in seats won by the MDC following complaints of irregularities by Zanu-PF, Goromozi West was one of only two districts to hold a recount in a seat won by Mugabe’s party.
The MDC was initially declared to have taken 109 seats against 97 for Zanu-PF in the 210-seat chamber, but Mugabe’s party will regain its majority if it can reverse the results in seven or more of the seats under review.
The recount also covers votes cast in a simultaneous presidential election in which Mugabe is seeking a sixth term in office. None of the results from the presidential election have so far been announced. — AFP