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New York, April 27, 2000 — On April 26, Harare airport police arrested Obed Zilwa, an Associated Press photographer, on suspicion that he may have been involved in an April 22 bomb attack on the offices of the independent Daily News, sources in Zimbabwe told CPJ.
Zilwa, a South African citizen, was on his way home from covering Zimbabwe’s ongoing political crisis when security agents arrested him. The agents alleged that Zilwa matched an eyewitness description of a person in a car from which the explosive device was hurled Saturday, CPJ’s sources say. No one was injured in the explosion.
Police reportedly questioned Zilwa for more than seven hours. Besides querying him about the bomb explosion at the Daily News, police also asked for his personal opinion on the current wave of illegal occupations of white-owned land by veterans of Zimbabwe’s independence war, CPJ’s sources say.
Zilwa was held overnight in a Harare jail, where he remained as of this morning. In Zimbabwe, police have the right to detain suspects for 48 hours without charge.
Zilwa was one of the first photographers on the scene after the April 22 explosion. He had just driven by when he heard the loud noise, and quickly returned to take pictures, CPJ’s sources say.
The Meikles Hotel, where Zilwa and most other international journalists have been staying, is just a few blocks from The Daily News, and foreign reporters were among the first at the scene. After the bombing, authorities said the media’s quick arrival raised their suspicions.
“It is absurd that Zimbabwean officials are using the fact that the press was prompt in reaching the scene of a breaking news story as grounds for suspecting a professional journalist of criminal activity,” said Yves Sorokobi, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator. “We urge the authorities to release Zilwa immediately.”