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Zimbabwe November 29, 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 has repeatedly protested various closures and intimidation of local media in Zimbabwe . This is not that kind of letter. In fact, since there is virtually no independent media left in Zimbabwe there is little to protest in that regard.
There is still the state-owned press, however, and we write to express our concern that Zimbabwe ‘s state television and newspapers are being used to demonize U.S. Ambassador Christopher Dell.
Recent reports imply that Ambassador Dell buys sex; on state television, a commentator referred to him as a “rabble-rouser;” others have called for his expulsion. That differences exist between the United States and Zimbabwe is undeniable, and certainly Ambassador Dell has been publicly critical of your government. However forthright his criticism, the use of the press to throw around unfounded and uncivil charges is an inappropriate use of its power. It serves only to fan the flames rather than to cool the situation.
The campaign against Ambassador Dell is the latest element in the deterioration of what was once a healthy climate of free expression in Zimbabwe . Only recently, we learned of the detention of several activists from the National Constitutional Assembly and dozens from the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions in connection with demonstrations. Moreover, it appears that the Voice of the People radio broadcasts have been jammed again. All these incidents share a single impulse: to suppress the voices of Zimbabweans
A recent index of press freedom by Reporters Without Borders places Zimbabwe 153rd of 167; only two African countries, Libya and Eritrea , rank lower. Meanwhile, other African countries are seeing freer presses — and more successful economies. Zimbabwe can boast neither.
Your countrymen are still speaking up,Your Excellency. Perhaps, it is time to listen. As the on-line UK newspaper, The Zimbabwean , pointed out on November 4 th , “A free press is not an additional luxury, to be enjoyed after a country has fulfilled a certain level of socio-economic rights: it is an essential pre-requisite. The worst offender for press freedom, North Korea , fails to provide for their people’s material needs while the best example, Denmark , enjoys the highest living standards on the planet. That is not a coincidence.”
The Overseas Press Club of America could not agree more.
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