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Zimbabwe June 23, 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
On behalf of our colleague, Kelvin Hamunyare Jakachira , the Overseas Press Club of America (OPC) respectfully asks your government to re-consider its policies on the media. Jakachira, as you may know, was a respected reporter with the now-banned Daily News in Harare . He faces charges of violating the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act by practicing as an “unaccredited journalist” in 2003.
We appeal on behalf of Jakachira because he is among Zimbabwe ‘s most endangered species: independent journalists. As proof, we offer the following list of assaults on our Zimbabwe ‘s publishers and broadcasters:
• The upcoming trials of 45 journalists—in addition to Jackachira—who once worked for The Daily News , for publishing without a license from the government’s Media and Information Commission;
• The closure of four newspapers since 2002;
• T he jamming of broadcasts from SW Radio Africa;
• The arrest and imprisonment of an American teacher, Howard Smith Gilman, for filming the demolition of urban neighborhoods;
• The interference of Deputy Minister of Information and Publicity, Bright Matonga, in reports by the ZBH.
We are well aware that these actions are all permissible under Zimbabwe ‘s draconian (and ineffective) media laws — including not only the Access to Information and the Protection of Privacy Act, but the Broadcasting Services Act and the Public Order and Security Act. We can only guess at what may be in store under proposed legislation to control Zimbabweans’ access to the Internet.
Zimbabwe ‘s previous Minister for Information and Publicity, Jonathan Moyo, openly stated that he did not believe in press freedom. We take some hope in knowing that this is not the stated policy of your government. As recently as May 26, Information and Broadcasting Minister, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, pledged to respect the independence of the media. But this is not happening, as the examples above make clear.
We know Zimbabwe is going through difficult times. If the intention of the practices listed above is to discourage bad news, or to improve Zimbabwe ‘s image, they are clearly not working. No country can advance without allowing information to travel where it must — a point made most recently by the Interior Minister of Ghana , Papa Owusu Ankomah. Press freedom is an African value — an essential and universal right that can only help Zimbabwe become the country it deserves to be.
Your Excellency, we respectfully request that you use the legitimate influence of your office to support the right of free expression for Kelvin Hamunyare Jakachira and his Daily News . We further urge approval of the registration application for The Tribune and allow the Daily News to return to circulation; the cessation of efforts to jam SW Radio Africa; and an end to the arrest of journalists for doing their jobs.
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