New York, October 19, 2000 — Zimbabwean soldiers attacked four international journalists yesterday in the western Harare township of Dzivarasekwa, according to international news reports and CPJ sources in the region.
Associated Press (AP) photographer Rob Cooper and AP television cameraman Chris Mazivanhange, were beaten when they left their vehicle to interview soldiers who had come to Dzivarasekwa to contain rioting crowds of citizens angered over recent increases in the price of bread, sugar, and soft drinks. The prices of these items have jumped by as much as 30 percent since last week, following sharp increases in the cost of gasoline, milk, and corn meal, the staple food.
Zimbabwe is currently mired in the worst economic crisis since independence in 1980. The rioting, which started on October 16, has spread across the southern and western suburbs of Harare with protesters stoning cars and trashing suburban shops.
The troops later attacked South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) reporter Vincent Murwira, and SABC cameraman Peter Maringisanwe, who were filming the riot, and confiscated their videotapes. All four reporters suffered minor bruises during the assault, which was immediately condemned by local journalists and press freedom advocates.
“We deplore this brutal interference in the work of professional journalists,” said CPJ Africa program coordinator Yves Sorokobi. “By attacking reporters, the Mugabe government is simply focusing global attention on its deplorable press-freedom record.”