FEBRUARY 14, 2005
Posted: March 14, 2005
Angus Shaw, freelance
Jan Raath, freelance
Brian Latham, freelance
Zimbabwean police repeatedly visited the shared offices of Shaw, Raath, and Latham on February 14, 15, and 16. Threats and intimidation from police and government officials led the journalists, who are Zimbabwean citizens, to flee the country the same week. CPJ sources fear that authorities are looking for a way to silence reporting to the outside world in the run-up to March 31 parliamentary elections.
Shaw is a freelance correspondent for The Associated Press (AP). Raath’s freelance work includes contributions to The Times of London and the German news agency Deutsche Welle. Latham is a correspondent for Bloomberg. All three were experienced journalists who had been reporting on Zimbabwe for many years.
On February 14, officials said they were investigating espionage allegations against the journalists and questioned them for six hours, according to CPJ sources. Then they claimed they were looking into the reporters’ accreditation. Finally, the officers said they were investigating whether a satellite phone used by one of the journalists was licensed and accused them of transmitting information prejudicial to the state, according to their lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa. On February 15, police guards were stationed at the office.
The journalists informed the police that they had applied for accreditation but had not received any answer from the government-controlled Media and Information Commission (MIC).
In the past, journalists in this situation could continue to work legally, but the rules are ambiguous, according to local journalists. Zimbabwe’s draconian Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act requires all journalists to be accredited with the MIC or face up to two years’ imprisonment.
Police searched the journalists’ office without a warrant and illegally stripped a computer hard disk, Shaw later told CPJ. He described the spying accusations as “ridiculous.” Latham said police threatened to visit the journalists at their homes. He said they also received warnings from officials that they were likely to be detained “for a very long time.”