Reporters Without Borders has called for the reinstatement of three journalists sacked from the government daily The Herald for working with American public radio Voice of America (VOA).
The three, sports editor Robson Sharuko and sports journalists, Tendai Ndemera and Rex Mphisa, were dismissed from The Herald at the beginning of February 2004.
The Media and Information Commission (MIC) said in a 25 February statement that collaboration by Zimbabwean journalists with VOA, ran contrary to "national interests and security", since it "was among media that spread lies about this country, contributing to a deterioration in its image."
Reporters Without Borders said the dismissals were symptomatic of the state of press freedom in Zimbabwe. "The authorities are trying to cut all links with the outside world by preventing a free exchange of news," it said.
"Journalists are restricted to writing about the president’s ’munificence’. No initiative is tolerated because it is viewed as a threat to the Mugabe regime, that feels itself threatened by growing international pressure."
"The Herald is after all the mouthpiece of the ruling party so the authorities are punishing their most fervent supporters," it added.
The international press freedom organisation also strongly regretted that the newspaper had published an article that justified and backed the decision. "Even the government media seem to be afraid of the authorities," it said.
In a separate development, Pikirayi Deketeke, managing editor of The Herald, news editor Innocent Gore and reporter Tsitsi Matope, are facing criminal proceedings for defaming a leader of the ruling Zanu-PF, after carrying an article accusing him of fraud. Under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) they risk several years in jail.