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Zimbabwe April 27, 2006
H.E. Robert G. Mugabe
Office of the Executive President
P.O. Box 7700 , Causeway Harare
Republic of Zimbabwe
Fax: (011.263.4) 70-05-72
On behalf of the Overseas Press Club of America (OPC), we urge the government of Zimbabwe to allow the Daily News to resume publishing and to give up its efforts to stamp out any voices other than its own.
It was Zimbabwe ‘s own High Court that threw out your government’s arguments against the Daily News, which have barred it from publication since September, 2003. Judge Rita Makarau noting that the Media & Information Commission’s case was both weak and biased. And yet, the newspaper still has no license, apparently on the grounds that the commission can not be abolished, and even if it was unfair, it still exists — and since it exists — no new commission can be appointed. That seems to be the view of Information Minister Tichaona Jokonya…a stance whose absurdity we need not belabor. But then the OPC expected little more from a minister who late last year referred to those working in the private media as “character assassins.”
In recent months, your government has squeezed the limited space in which Zimbabwe ‘s brave journalists operate, forcing out three staff members at the Daily Mirror , apparently for being too sympathetic to the Movement for Democratic Change. The Central Intelligence Organization was implicated in those events, which really can only be called a purge. Meanwhile, Ibbo Mandaza, editor-in-chief of the Sunday Mirror and Daily Mirror , remains suspended from working as a journalist even though the High Court ruled in his favor, as well.
The OPC has also noticed that Zimbabweans trying to making a living by working with foreign media are also under increasing pressure. We do not find it coincidental that Gift Phiri was beaten brutally by men who said he was working with two U.S. radio programs — not long after he had noticed CIO men in his neighborhood. We take no position on whether Mr. Phiri was or was not working for the American news organizations because it is irrelevant. The use of local talent is common and, indeed, positive practice. There is absolutely no excuse for the beating Mr. Phiri endured.
Our colleagues at Reporters Without Borders noted in its recent annual report that “it is arguable whether one can still talk about an opposition press when the expression of the slightest difference of opinion is seen as a coup attempt.” Zimbabwe ‘s official government press, too, is more and more constrained in what it will and will not report. But word still gets out — from travelers, immigrants and the Internet. The attempt to block the flow of information merely shifts it to other channels. Your Excellency, why not give it up?
There is precedent for this. The OPC notes a recent policy return regarding Zimbabwe ‘s white farmers, some of whom may be asked to return to bolster food production. And with Zimbabwe ‘s reliance on food aid, running low on wheat and even Coke, with inflation approaching 1000 percent and life expectancy falling fast, the need for other voices from patriotic Zimbabweans to help their country out of its difficulties is clear.
Allowing the Daily News to return to the streets would be a hopeful beginning.
Freedom of the Press Committee
Simbi Veke Mubako
Ambassador of Zimbabwe to the U.S.A.
Embassy of the Republic of Zimbabwe
1608 New Hampshire Avenue, NW
Washington , DC 20009
Fax: (202) 483-9326
Ambassador Boniface Guwa Chidyausiku
Permanent Mission of the Republic of Zimbabwe
to the United Nations
128 East 56th Street
New York , NY 10022
Fax: (212) 308-6705
Christopher W. Dell
U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe
Embassy of the United States of America
P.O. Box 3340
Fax: (011.263.4) 79-64-88
Radio Voice of the People
P.O. Box 5750
Ms. Gerry Jackson
SW Radio Africa
Mr. Mduduzi Mathuthu