Zimbabwe editor detained
01 December 2010, 20:00
Harare - A Zimbabwean newspaper editor has been detained in what rights groups called a new crackdown on the media before elections which President Robert Mugabe wants to call next year.
Police arrested Nevanji Madanhire of the private weekly Standard on Tuesday over a report accusing police commanders of hiring Mugabe's war veteran supporters to beef up the force before the election, his lawyer and workmates said.
The veterans of Zimbabwe's liberation war before independence in 1980 have been accused of being behind numerous attacks on opposition party supporters in the past, including bloody assaults during disputed elections in 2008.
Authorities have dismissed the Standard report as malicious. Madanhire was charged with publishing false statements prejudicial to the state, and there was no indication on when he would be taken to court, his lawyer Chris Mhike said. The charge carries a fine or jail term of up to two years.
Critics say Mugabe's Zanu-PF party, which has held power since independence from Britain, has used tough security and media laws to stifle opponents and criticism in the face of a political and economic crisis.
The journalist who wrote the November 14 story, Nqobani Ndlovu, was detained in Zimbabwe's second largest city of Bulawayo for nine days before being freed under a High Court order.
A power-sharing government that Mugabe was forced to form with rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai after the 2008 election has granted licences to a dozen new private newspapers. However, it still has to end the state monopoly in broadcasting and to repeal repressive laws around the media.
Local media rights groups last week petitioned Tsvangirai and President Jacob Zuma, the regional mediator in the Zimbabwe crisis, to fight for press freedom.
The Media Institute of Southern Africa (Zimbabwe-Chapter) and the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists said on Wednesday the detention of Madanhire and Ndlovu appeared to be the start of a new harassment campaign against the media before elections Mugabe says he wants held by mid-2011.
"This harassment of journalists should stop... We want journalists to be allowed to go about their work without harassment or intimidation," ZUJ president Dumisani Sibanda said.
Mugabe's Zanu-PF says the party is a victim of a hate campaign led and sponsored by Western powers opposed to its seizures of white-owned farms for blacks, and that Zimbabwe's media laws are meant to promote professionalism.