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Zimbabwe27 March 2002

Lone independent daily threatened with prosecution

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) expressed its concern today about threats by Zimbabwean information minister Jonathan Moyo to prosecute the editor-in-chief of the country’s only independent daily newspaper, the Daily News, and urged him not to carry them out. "If editor Geoffrey Nyarota is convicted, the paper will become the first victim of the very harsh new press law passed only a few days after President Robert Mugabe’s re-election," RSF secretary-general Robert Ménard said in a letter to Moyo. He noted that the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion, Abid Hussain, had said the new law violated the right to free expression guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that Zimbabwe had signed.

RSF learns that Moyo threatened Nyarota in writing on 25 March with prosecution under the new press and privacy law if he did not print a correction to a 22 March article that reported that the European Union and the ACP countries had drawn up a resolution calling for new elections in Zimbabwe. Under Article 80 of the controversial new press law, which came into force on 15 March, journalists convicted of falsifying or inventing news risk up to two years in prison and a fine of 100,000 Zimbabwean dollars (_2,100). Nyarota denies publishing "falsehoods" and firmly refuses to print a correction on grounds that the Daily News is independent.

RSF notes that Moses Oguti, editor of the Botswana-based magazine Trans-Kalahari, was arrested on 17 February and jailed in the eastern town of Mutare, apparently without being formally accused of anything. The authorities say he illegally entered the country from Mozambique by crossing through the mountains after being refused entry by customs officials at the frontier town of Forbes.



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