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Zimbabwe March 24, 2006
H.E. Robert G. Mugabe
Office of the Executive President
P.O. Box 7700 , Causeway
Republic of Zimbabwe
Fax: (011.263.4) 70-05-72
We write, yet again, to protest the recent intensification of your campaign to harass and intimidate what remains of the independent media of Zimbabwe. If you have any regard for the opinion of the community of nations, it is in your interest – as well as your country’s – to reverse this cruel and ultimately self-defeating violation of the universal right of freedom of expression.
Your Central Intelligence Organization (CIO) continues to persecute The Daily Mirror , one of the last independent newspapers in Zimbabwe. Because of CIO harassment, according to Reporters Without Borders, reporter Sydney Kawadza was fired on February 23, while his colleague, Takunda Maodza, was suspended because of his alleged “poor performance” and another reporter, Paidamwoyo Chipunza, resigned on March 6. Earlier, the editor, Pattison Matsikidze, was suspended in December. The financial director of the group that owns The Daily Mirror, Ngoni Mangadze, and his accountant, Francis Kutinhi, were fired at the same time.
Voice of the People (VOP), a privately owned radio station that has been one of the few alternatives to the state-controlled Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, is also one of your targets. On January 24, the authorities brought charges of broadcasting without a license against six of the station’s trustees. Earlier in January, Zimbabwe’s government-appointed Media and Information Commission (MIC) threatened to cancel the license of the Financial Gazette, a privately owned newspaper, if it did not retract a story that had questioned the commission’s independence from government. On January 29, the commission refused to renew the accreditation of fifteen journalists working for the Zimbabwe Independent, another privately owned newspaper, until the paper agreed to retract a similar story.
In addition, on January 18, police in Mutare arrested Sydney Saize, an independent journalist who had allegedly filed a story for Voice of America claiming that militants of the ruling ZANU-PF party had beaten teachers in the city. Saize faces possible criminal charges for practicing journalism without accreditation and publishing falsehoods punishable under the Public Order and Security Act of 2002. And finally, freelance journalist, Gift Phiri, former reporter for the weekly, Zimbabwe Independent, was beaten up by men accusing him of working for media hostile to the government. On February 16, when Phiri was returning to his home in the eastern Harare suburb of Sunningdale, after watching a football match in a local bar, five men jumped on him and beat him for about 20 minutes. They accused him of working for Voice of America and the VOP. Phiri was kicked and beaten with knuckle-dusters, and suffered injuries to his face and ribs.
Your Excellency, this is an intolerable record of persecution and contempt for press freedom, and it comes after years of growing abuses. The Overseas Press Club of America, which has defended journalists around the world for more than 65 years, appeals to you to re-consider, end this campaign and restore freedom to your battered country.
We would appreciate a reply.
Norman A. Schorr
Co-chairmen, Freedom of the Press Committee
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
Fax: (011.263.4) 79-88-97