Reporters Without Borders today strongly condemned the action of the Zimbabwean intelligence services in compiling a blacklist of at least 15 journalists working for independent news media who are to be subjected to “strict surveillance” and other unspecified “measures” in the run-up to next year’s presidential and parliamentary elections.
“The Zimbabwean government’s paranoia is accompanied by systematic repression,” the press freedom organisation said. “This alarming blacklist is an outrage in the approach to what are crucial elections for Zimbabwe’s future. President Robert Mugabe will be held fully responsible if anything happens to these journalists.”
The existence of the blacklist was revealed in an apparently-leaked copy of a single page with the government’s letterhead that was published in the independent Zimbabwean press on 26 September. Dated June 2007 and headed “2008 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections,” it contains a list of 15 leading Zimbabwean journalists under the subheading “Targeted journalists.”
The foot of the page has this paragraph: “The following media personnel and others as discussed in the previous meeting are to be placed under strict surveillance and taken in on the various dates set. They’re working hand in hand with hostile anti-Zimbabwean western governments. Measures to be taken against the above including those in exile, are listed on page 4 summary.”
The blacklist is headed by Abel Mutsakani, the editor of the website ZimOnline, and Gift Phiri, a freelance journalist and Harare correspondent of The Zimbabwean, a privately-owned weekly based in London. Phiri was arrested and beaten in detention in April before being acquitted by a Harare court of working without accreditation from the powerful, government controlled Media Information Committee. Mutsakani was shot by three gunmen in South Africa in July but miraculously survived.
Also on the list are Vincent Kahiya, the publisher of the privately-owned Zimbabwe Independent daily, its editor, Dumisani Muleya, and one of its journalists, Itai Mushekwe; Bill Saidi, the deputy editor of The Standard, a privately-owned daily, and Caiphas Chimhete, one of its journalists; Njabulo Ncube, the political editor of the privately-owned Financial Gazette daily and two of its journalists, Kumbirai Mafunda and Clemence Manyukwe; Zimbabwean Union of Journalists secretary-general Foster Dongozi and Wilf Mbanga, the founder of The Daily News, which is now closed; and journalists Valentine Maponga, Itai Dzamara and Ray Matikinye.
The CIO document