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Zimbabwe11 February 2002

Zimbabwe’s only independent daily paper fire-bombed

In a letter addressed to the Minister of Home Affairs, John Nkomo, Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières - RSF) expressed deep concern about the fire-bombing of the Bulawayo offices of Zimbabwe’s only independent daily newspaper, the Daily News. The organisation called on minister John Nkomo to make serious and impartial efforts to find and punish those responsible.

"This is a serious attack on press freedom in Zimbabwe and the authorities must ensure the culprits are punished," said RSF secretary-general Robert Ménard. "As the presidential elections approach, journalists must have maximum security so they can continue to inform the public."

During the night of 10-11 February 2002, RSF learns that two home-made fire-bombs were lobbed through the windows of the Daily News offices in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second city. A night watchman quickly put out the fire and nobody was hurt. At the same time, two more fire-bombs were thrown at a printing works that recently produced posters for the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

A few days before, according to the Daily News staff, members of the ruling ZANU-PF party had stuck election pictures of President Robert Mugabe on the windows of the paper’s offices. Party militants warned that if these were removed, they would return and set fire to the building.

RSF notes that last year Zimbabwe became one the countries in Africa where press freedom was most harshly repressed. Over the past 12 months, more than 20 journalists were arrested by security forces. President Mugabe has been placed on RSF’s world-wide list of predators of press freedom.

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