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Zimbabwe30 January 2002

Three journalists arrested under new public order and security act

In a letter addressed to the Minister of Home Affairs, John Nkomo, Reporters Sans Frontières (Reporters Without Borders - RSF), a Paris-based press freedom watchdog, has protested against the arrest of three journalists working for independent media in Harare. In a letter addressed to Interior Minister John Nkomo, RSF urged him to take the matter up with the relevant authorities to obtain the immediate release of the three reporters.

Robert Ménard, RSF General Secretary, said: "The authorities made use of the public order and security act passed last month to break up a demonstration and to arrest journalists". "In what way does a peaceful demonstration by journalists calling for greater press freedom threaten public order and security?", he asked. "Once more this is just a pretext to attack the independent press," he added.

According to information obtained by RSF, Police in Harare, on 30 January 2002 , arrested Rhodeh Mashavave and Foster Dongozi, of the independent Daily News, and Cornelius Nduna, a journalist with the independent weekly The Standard and a correspondent with the press and audio-visual agency Associated Press Television News. The journalists were taking part in a demonstration, along with around 40 local and foreign media professionals, to protest against the draft information law currently being debated in parliament, that would particularly stifle press freedom.

In the morning, about ten anti-riot police dispersed the demonstrators before arresting the three reporters. According to a police spokesperson, the three were accused of taking part in an "illegal gathering" likely to threaten public order. They are detained in one of the capital‚s police stations.

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