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Zimbabwe August 24, 2005
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
The Overseas Press Club of America (OPC) is deeply concerned about reports that Zimbabwe ‘s intelligence service is buying into what little is left of the country’s independent press.
According to local press accounts, the Central Intelligence Organization has bought controlling stakes in the Daily Mirror, Weekly Mirror and possibly the Financial Gazette . These reports are credible in part because Zimbabwe ‘s once-vibrant and prosperous independent press is in such poor shape. High prices for fuel and newsprint, in addition to a devastated commercial environment, make for a vulnerable economic status, and therefore perhaps a willingness to sell without looking too closely at the buyer.
In many countries, the government has some role in the press. Britain ‘s BBC is only one example. But this ownership is open, not secret, which is certainly not the case in Zimbabwe . On the contrary, it sounds uncannily like the kind of thing that was regularly done in apartheid South Africa , a regime to which Zimbabwe brought sustained opposition. Now it looks as if Zimbabwe is emulating the government it once opposed.
It is against this back-drop of declining independence that the OPC urges the government of Zimbabwe to grant the license of African Tribune Newspapers (ATN) to resume publication. That can only mean reining in the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA).
The grounds on which ATN’s license was denied — that it lacked capital — were feeble. So was the original “offense” that got it suspended in the first place (changing day of publication). That a respectable publication can be put out of business on such a pretext is a sign that the AIPPA is not, contrary to its title, ensuring access to information.
There is a growing danger that the voice of Zimbabwe ‘s independent press will be drowned by government-controlled broadcasts and publications. We remind you that “patriotism is not about concealing the state’s record of misrule nor its persistent abuse of power.” If this sounds familiar, that remark is not from some sermon by a commentator in the West. It is the view of Zimbabwean editors — including those in the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists, the Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe National Editors Forum, the Independent Journalists Association of Zimbabwe, the Federation of African Media Women Zimbabwe, and the Freelance Writers Association of Zimbabwe — speaking to the Media Institute of Southern Africa only last month.
With a free press, Zimbabwe will be a stronger, better place. We sincerely request the government to re-consider press policies that are killing your country.
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
Joseph G. Sullivan
U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe
Embassy of the United States of America
P. O. Box 3340
Fax: (011.263.4) 79-64-88