Journalist flees Zimbabwe after death threat

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Freelance journalist Stanley Kwenda, a contributor to the private weekly The Zimbabwean, fled the country on Friday after he said he received a telephone threat from a high-ranking police officer, according to the paper’s editor, Wilf Mbanga.

The reporter identified the caller as Chief Superintendent Chrispen Makedenge, Mbanga said. The caller allegedly said that Kwenda would be dead by the weekend in connection with an article in The Zimbabwean, according to news reports. Kwenda had quoted relatives of Makedenge’s late wife making critical comments about the senior police officer, Mbanga said.

Phone calls made by CPJ to Makedenge went unanswered. Police spokesman Wayne Bvujzijena told CPJ that no complaint had been filed and no investigation opened. He said police knew only what had been reported online.

“We call on the commissioner of police to thoroughly investigate this serious allegation against a staff member and to ensure that justice is served,” said CPJ’s Africa Program Coordinator Tom Rhodes. “Just when it seemed that the media in Zimbabwe was emerging from years of repression, a journalist has been forced to flee for his life.”

Local reports have said that Makedenge orchestrated the 2008 arrests of 32 former opposition party members and human rights activists, including Andrison Manyere, a freelance photojournalist. Manyere is free on bail but still faces several politically motivated criminal charges.

Manyere was detained by police for two hours on January 18 while filming a demonstration by members of Women and Men of Zimbabwe Arise, according to the press freedom group Media Institute of Southern Africa.

Source: Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

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