After the arrest of three more journalists in Zimbabwe, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) today deplored the unjustified use of the new press law to silence all independent voices in the country and called on President Robert Mugabe to stop harassment of the privately-owned media..
"The government is doing everything it can to block journalists working for the independent media," said RSF secretary-general Robert Ménard. "It is becoming impossible to print anything criticising the regime without running the risk of up to two years in prison." President Mugabe is on RSF’s worldwide list of 38 predators of press freedom.
Three staffers of the privately-owned weekly The Standard - editor-in-chief Bornwell Chakaodza and two journalists, Farai Mutsaka and Fungayi Kanyuchi - were arrested by police on 16 May and taken to the main police station in Harare.
They were accused of "abusing journalistic privileges by publishing falsehoods," which carries a prison sentence of up to two years and a 100,000 Zimbabwe dollars fine (about €2,000) under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act signed into law by the president in March.
They were targeted for two articles that appeared in the paper on 12 March, in which Mutsaka said Zimbabwe had bought anti-riot tankers from Israel to break up anti-government demonstrations and Kanyuchi said some police were freeing arrested prostitutes in exchange for sex. Chakaodza was charged because he was technically responsible for publishing the articles.
These arrests bring to 11 the number of journalists who have been picked up and accused of "abusing journalistic privileges" since the press law came into force on 15 March.