Newspaper Office BombedNewsvendor accused of delivering anthrax to vice president

New York, February 11, 2002—The Bulawayo city bureau of the independent Daily News was bombed in the early hours of Monday morning, CPJ has learned.

At about 3 a.m., two gasoline bombs were thrown at the Daily News building from a moving vehicle. No one was hurt in the explosion, and the office suffered only minor damage. A nearby building housing the Daily Press, a private printing business unrelated to the Daily News, was also bombed.

“CPJ is deeply disturbed by this latest act of violence against the independent press in Zimbabwe,” said executive director Ann Cooper. “We urge police to launch a prompt and thorough investigation.”

The bombing was the third such attack on the private daily in the last two years. It follows an incident on Thursday in which unidentified people plastered campaign posters touting President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party on the bureau’s windows and outer walls. The individuals threatened to burn down the building if the posters were removed.

Under Zimbabwean law, placing posters on private property is illegal without the owner’s consent. When Daily News editors called ZANU-PF headquarters to complain about the posters, however, party officials denied any involvement in the incident, claiming that some posters had been stolen from their offices.

As the March 9 and 10 presidential election nears, the Daily News has come under increasing harassment from the government and supporters of Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party, whose parliamentary delegation recently succeeded in passing legislation that imposes harsh restriction on international media representatives in Zimbabwe and increases state control over the local press.

On Friday February 8, security guards at Vice President Joseph Msika’s home in the capital, Harare, arrested Vincent Chinembiri, a Daily News vendor, and accused him of delivering an anthrax-laced newspaper to Msika’s home. Daily News sources dismissed the allegation.

According to the Daily News, Chinembiri was arrested around 8 a.m. and later interrogated at the Law and Order Section of the Harare Central Police Station.

On Sunday, efforts to secure Chinembiri’s release failed as senior police officers insisted the newsvendor had engaged in “an act of banditry.”

The Daily News office and printing press in Harare were bombed in April 2000 and January 2001, respectively. Police have yet to identify a suspect in either attack.