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Zimbabwe: Police intimidate journalists ahead of 2011 polls
Zimbabwean police have arrested a second journalist from a private newspaper in as many weeks on charges of publishing an article that undermines confidence in the security forces.
Nevanji Madanhire, the editor of The Standard, a privately owned Sunday newspaper was arrested almost a week after another journalist from the same publication was released on US$100 bail.
Both arrests were made over a story written by Ndlovu alleging that police were recruiting retired officers and war veterans loyal to President Robert Mugabe to direct operations ahead of next year’s elections.
The police say the story was not true, and the journalists have also been charged with criminal defamation, which carries a maximum of a 20 year jail term.
Veteran journalist Trevor Ncube who owns Alpha Media Holdings, the publishers of The Standard and Zimbabwe’s only privately owned daily paper NewsDay said Madanhire’s arrest was calculated to intimidate journalists.
“The police haven’t disputed the veracity of The Standard story and last week a High Court judge said the police’s action was a waste of the court’s time,” Ncube said. “We are concerned about this continued harassment of journalists.”
Zimbabwe journalists fear the arrests are a precursor of worse things to come as the country prepares for hotly contested elections next year.
Despite the formation of a unity government in February last year, President Mugabe’s loyalists remain in charge of the security forces.
Last week, Zimbabwe’s police chief caused a storm when he warned that results of next year’s elections will be accepted only if the octogenarian ruler’s party wins.
“It’s a going to be a no holds barred election,” said Iden Wetherell, an AMH group senior associate editor and a member of the Zimbabwe National Editor’s Forum.
He warned that Mr Mugabe’s sympathisers were prepared to kill to ensure that the veteran ruler in power since Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980 wins the crucial vote.
Zimbabwe has one of the toughest media laws in the world and journalists are routinely arrested for writing stories critical of the government.
The few that have been convicted of any crimes have easily won their cases on appeal, reinforcing arguments that the authorities use the laws to harass journalists.
Journalists last week petitioned South African President Jacob Zuma who was in Harare urging him to lean on President Mugabe to end the abuses against journalists.