Zimbabwe Police raided the offices of one of the Independent newspapers at the weekend seeking to arrest its editor and news editor. The swoop by officers of the police law and order section came as the country’s new coalition government hosted a conference in Kariba to plan for the introduction of media reforms.
Chief executive officer, Raphael Khumalo said the police told him that editor Vincent Kahiya and news editor Constantine Chimakure were to be arrested for publishing a story on Friday.
The paper named assistant director external in the CIO, Retired Brigadier Asher Walter Tapfumanei, police superintendents Regis Chitekwe and Joel Tenderere, detective inspectors Elliot Muchada and Joshua Muzanango, officer commanding CID Homicide Crispen Makedenge, chief superintendent Peter Magwenzi and Senior Assistant Commissioner Simon Nyathi as some of those who spearheaded the operation.
The journalists were not at the offices during the raid as staff from the Independent do not work on Saturdays.
It was the first raid on the country’s independent press since the coalition government between President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC was sworn in on February 13.
Khumalo said: “The attempt to arrest Kahiya and Chimakure amounts to harassment at a time when the government is holding a media reform conference to put an end to this sort of thing. The episode shows there has been no change in the role of the police.”
The police officers and Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) agents had been named in court papers by the 30-odd abductees suing authorities for illegal arrest and torture after abductions that began in October last year.
The state claims the abductees were involved in plots to overthrow Mugabe, but defence lawyers say authorities have failed to produce any evidence of this.
The charges against the activists has been a major cause of friction within the new government, with the police and intelligence chiefs loyal to Mugabe controlling the security services and refusing to acknowledge demands for major human rights reforms.
On Saturday the government convened a conference to produce recommendations for reform of the country’s media legislation, condemned by international media watchdogs as among the most repressive in the world.
Since 2000 scores of journalists have been arrested and tortured, all but a few independent newspapers have been shut down and there is a near-total ban on foreign journalists.
The meeting was boycotted by most media organisations and journalists outside the state system due to the continued detention of journalist Andrisson Manyere, a freelance photographer.