CPJ mourns death of award-winning journalist

New York, November 13, 2002
-The board of directors and staff of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) are saddened by the death of Zimbabwean journalist Mark Chavunduka.

Chavunduka, 37, died on November 11 at West End Hospital in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, according to his relatives. The cause of death is unknown, but friends and family said he had been in poor health for a long time and was checked into the hospital for severe dehydration.

An award-winning former editor of the private Standard weekly, Chavuduka became a symbol of resistance among Zimbabwe’s beleaguered independent journalists after he and his chief reporter, Ray Choto, were arrested in December 1999 and savagely tortured by the Zimbabwean military for writing about an alleged coup plot against President Robert Mugabe. Their detention lasted several days despite court orders for their release and a flurry of protests from around the world.

After his release, Chavunduka received treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder in both Britain and the United States. According to the BBC, Chavunduka often complained of nightmares following the beatings and electric shocks he received during his detention.

Chavunduka was a 2000-2001 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University.

“He was a great journalist and he died at a time when great journalists are needed in Zimbabwe,” said Choto from his home in the Bay area of California.