Zimbabwe: "Unpatriotic" newspaper bombed

January 29, 2001 12:00 PM ET

January 29, 2001

President Robert Mugabe
Office of the President
Munhumutapa Building
Samora Machel Avenue/ 3rd Street
Harare, Zimbabwe

VIA FAX: 011-263-4-708-820

Your Excellency,

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) strongly condemns yesterday's early-morning bombing of the printing press of the independent Daily News in Harare. Sunday's attack is the second such bombing of the private daily in less than a year. These violent attacks appear to be part of a deeply disturbing campaign against the Daily News and its staff, which have suffered frequent and ongoing harassment at the hands of police and top-ranking officials of the ruling ZANU-PF.

In what may have been an ominous prelude to the bombing, the BBC reported that on Saturday, January 27, Information Minister Jonathan Moyo threatened to have the Daily News silenced because it posed a security risk to the nation. Then, at around 1:30 a.m. on January 28, an armed group detained at gunpoint the six-man security crew at the factory where the Daily News is printed. Several explosives were scattered inside the building; they detonated about 15 minutes later, causing material damage estimated by our sources at US$2million. No one was hurt in the blast.

According to news reports, the "Authentic MDC," a previously unknown group, has claimed responsibility for the bombing in a note found at the scene of the explosion. In its hand-written note, the group criticized the Daily News for siding with the "racist white minority" in the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
CPJ sources suggest that government supporters are responsible for yesterday's attack. The Daily News, which has written critically about your government and its ruling style, has been the target of previous attacks by pro-ZANU-PF war veterans. Most recently, on January 23, 500 war veterans demonstrated in front of the newspaper's offices, to protest its coverage of the death of Democratic Republic of Congo President Laurent-Desiré Kabila, whose army is fighting a rebel insurgency with the help of Zimbabwean troops. The protesters hurled stones at the newspaper's offices, breaking windows, and they assaulted a Daily News reporter, Julius Zava.

That protest sparked a number of others around the country, as veterans and ZANU-PF supporters in Marondera and Mutuko later announced they would take action against the Daily News for its allegedly unpatriotic coverage of your government. According to CPJ's sources, since Saturday, they have attacked vendors, confiscated copies of the paper and burned them, and set up a roadblock to search vehicles for copies of the Daily News. In addition, on Friday, January 26, two days before the bombing, officers of the Criminal Investigative Unit (CID) arrested and questioned three Daily News journalists. CPJ sources say that these detentions were in connection with an October 2000 article, which said that members of the MDC had filed a lawsuit against you in the United States for political violence that occurred during last June's general elections, causing the deaths of more than 20 people.

As an organization of journalists dedicated to defending press freedom worldwide, CPJ urges Your Excellency and Information Minister Jonathan Moyo to publicly condemn the bomb attack against the Daily News. We also urge you to ensure that the case is thoroughly investigated, and that the perpetrators are held accountable for their crime. Finally, we demand a thorough investigation and action against the perpetrators of last April's bombing, when an unidentified individual hurled a homemade explosive into the building which houses Daily News offices in downtown Harare. Although law enforcement officials launched an inquiry, it has been dragging.
These investigations must be carried out with urgency, in order to remove this grave threat to the Daily News and to press freedom throughout Zimbabwe.


Sincerely,

Ann K. Cooper
Executive Director

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