New York, May 19, 2005—Zimbabwean security forces yesterday detained a freelance journalist filming police as they cleared Harare’s central business district of street vendors, according to a lawyer for the press freedom group MISA-Zimbabwe. The journalist, Frank Chikowore, was being held without charge today.
“It’s outrageous that Zimbabwean authorities would lock up someone who was simply filming the activities of police in a public place,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. “We demand the immediate and unconditional release of Frank Chikowore and an end to this kind of abuse.”
MISA-Zimbabwe legal officer Wilbert Mandinde, who is seeking Chikowore’s release, said police gave no explanation for the arrest. He told CPJ that Chikowore had a government license to practice journalism, as required by Zimbabwe’s Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), and that he had been detained because he was filming police “harassing innocent people.”
Chikowore had just finished another assignment when he came upon the police sweep and began filming, MISA-Zimbabwe spokesman Nyasha Nyakunu said.
Mandinde, who met with Chikowore, said the journalist has a swollen left foot after being manhandled by police. MISA-Zimbabwe reported that police confiscated Chikowore’s video camera and two notebooks.
A crackdown on the independent press in Zimbabwe that started in 2002 has included the detainment, harassment, and forced exiled of dozens of journalists, as well as the closure of four newspapers.