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ZIMBABWE: Few options left for independent press - MISA

johannesburg, 20 May 2004 (IRIN) - The Zimbabwe office of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) has slammed the arrest and detention of the editor of independent newspaper The Standard.

Editor Bornwell Chakaodza and reporter Valentine Maponga were arrested on Wednesday for contravening the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) when The Standard published a report on the murder of a mining boss.

The Standard had published an article in which relatives of slain nickel mining executive Leonard Chimimba allegedly implicated government officials in his death. Chimimba had reportedly been assisting police investigating the disappearance of truckloads of nickel.

MISA's Zimbabwe information officer, Rashweat Mukundu, told IRIN on Thursday that the two were questioned by police for several hours before they were released on Wednesday night.

Mukundu said the two journalists "were released last night [Wednesday] around 7pm, and police said they would proceed by way of a summons, should they need to pursue the matter. The police questioned them and they signed warned-and-cautioned statements before their release".

"This is the same kind of harassment we have seen the police and army perpetrate on the private media since POSA and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Since the closure of the Daily News, the only independent voices are The Independent, The Standard, and the Financial Gazette ... it's clear the intention of the government is to close those remaining voices," Mukundu remarked.

He added: "As we go towards elections in 2005, we are likely to see quite a lot of this kind of harassment, to stop the private media from being critical of some policies affecting Zimbabweans, and reporting on incidents [likely to embarrass government]."

He noted that there "seem to be very few options left for the media in Zimbabwe", and called for "pressure from the [Southern African] region" to help preserve media freedom.

Theme (s): Governance,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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