Reporters Without Borders today condemned a purge being carried out by the government within The Daily Mirror newspaper in which three journalists have been fired or forced to resign by the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO).
“The CIO’s behaviour is unacceptable,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Journalists are being offered the choice of conforming to the government’s dictates or leaving. The Daily Mirror was one of Zimbabwe’s last independent newspapers. The free press is being stifled by the government, which continues to flout court decisions and warnings from press freedom groups.”
The CIO is deliberately making it extremely difficult for The Daily Mirror’s journalists to work in order to get rid of the current staff and hire new journalists. As result of harassment, Paidamwoyo Chipunza resigned on 6 March, becoming the third journalist to quit the newspaper in less than a week. She had worked for The Daily Mirror since February 2004 and was its representive in the Zimbabwean Union of Journalists.
Reporter Sydney Kawadza was fired on 23 February while his colleague Takunda Maodza was suspended because of his alleged “poor performance.” Various sources contacted by Reporters Without Borders said the two had been treated in this fashion because of their articles about the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), including the current dispute among its members. The CIO, which was opposed to the management’s decision to assign Maodza to cover the MDC, accused him of being an MDC sympathizer.
The departure of these three journalists follows earlier moves aimed at weakening the newspaper. Editor Pattison Matsikidze was suspended in December. The financial director of the group that owns The Daily Mirror, Ngoni Mangadze, and his accountant, Francis Kutinhi, were fired at the same time because they were recruited by Ibbo Mandaza, the newspaper’s founder and former editor.
The purge of journalists being carried out by the CIO at The Daily Mirror is targeted at those considered loyal to Mandaza. Despite a high court ruling in his favour, Mandaza is still suspended and cannot work as a journalist.