Reporters Without Borders is very disturbed by the abduction of freelance photojournalist Shadreck Manyere and attempted abduction of Obrian Rwafa, a reporter with the state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), in separate incidents on 13 December, just 10 days after the kidnapping of journalist and human rights activist Jestina Mukoko, who is still missing.
“Whoever was responsible, these kidnapping were clearly designed to sow terror among Zimbabwe’s journalists, whose investigative work is more indispensible than ever in the current social, economic and public health situation,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The authorities must do everything possible to identify the perpetrators and instigators and bring them to justice.”
Also known as “Saddam,” Manyere was seen for the last time at a garage in Norton, 40 km west of Harare, on 13 December. Sources close to Manyere said he had received a phone call from someone asking to meet him. As he readily agreed, it is believed he knew the caller. His family has not heard from him since then and his mobile phone has been turned off.
His wife said that, the day after his disappearance, a group of police officers went to the family’s home and ransacked it.
Rwafa said he was outside his home on 13 December when unidentified individuals accused him of lying about the situation in Zimbabwe, began hitting him and forced him into a white car, which then drove off. By wrestling with the driver, Rwafa forced the car off the road and managed to escape. He said the attack seemed to have been politically motivated as his assailants did not try to rob him. He is currently in hospital with head injuries and bruising.
George Charamba, the permanent secretary for information and publicity and President Robert Mugabe’s spokesman, has meanwhile twice threatened journalists working for foreign news media, which he accuses of waging a propaganda war against the government.
In an interview for ZBC on 12 December, he accused the local bureau of foreign news media of quoting President Mugabe of out context when they reported that he said the government had “arrested” the cholera outbreak. Charamba added that the government was not obliged to accredit foreign news organisations under Zimbabwe’s press law, called the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
He repeated his threats the next day in a column in the state-owned daily The Herald, accusing the Reuters, AP and AFP news agencies and the France 24, BBC and Al Jazeera TV news stations of “rewriting” the news copy provided by their local staff to “suit their nations’ agendas.” There would be a “robust response,” he added.