Three journalists from the Zimbabwe Independent, including the editor, were arrested by police in Harare on 10 January, accused of insulting President Robert Mugabe.
"The year 2004 opened in the worst possible way for press freedom in Zimbabwe. Three journalists have already been arrested and police are still preventing the Daily News for reappearing despite a high court ruling in its favour," said Robert Ménard, secretary general of Reporters Without Borders.
"The government no longer even respects the decisions of the courts. We are extremely concerned about the working conditions for Zimbabwe journalists and call on the authorities to pull back. The people have the right to diverse and independent news and information," he added.
Iden Wetherell, editor of the Zimbabwe Independent, one of the two private weeklies in the country, and two of his journalists, Vincent Kahiya and Dumisani Muleya, were arrested on 10 January and taken to a police station in Harare. Police are reportedly still seeking a fourth journalist, Idai Dzamera.
They are all accused of publishing an article that was "insulting" to the head of state. The Zimbabwe Independent had reported that President Mugabe took a plane belonging to the national carrier Air Zimbabwe for his holidays in Asia, resulting in loss of earnings to the public company of three billion Zimbabwe dollars (about 3 million euros).
The three journalists from the Zimbabwe Independent were released on
bail on 12 January. They all remain under judicial supervision and the
date of their trial has not yet been set.
Elsewhere, the high court ruled on 9 January that the Daily News could resume publishing but police said they had not received any such instructions and refused to reopen the newspaper’s print works, preventing it from reappearing.
The following day, the state national daily The Herald reported that the authorities planned to appeal against the high court decision.