Photojournalist missing in Zimbabwe

New York, December 17, 2008–A journalist who disappeared in Zimbabwe on Saturday may be in police custody, journalists in Harare told CPJ.

Accredited freelance photojournalist Shadreck Manyere disappeared after taking his car to a garage in Norton, 19 miles (30 kilometers) west of Harare, local journalists told CPJ. Police raided Manyere’s home the following day and confiscated equipment related to his work, his lawyer and local journalists said. Family members and colleagues became worried when Manyere did not return home that evening and his phone had been switched off. A number of them told CPJ that they believe he was abducted, possibly by the police.

At 1 a.m. on Sunday, men who said they were police officers went to the photojournalist’s home in Westgate, a suburb west of Harare, and asked through the closed door if they could search the premises, local journalists told CPJ. They told his family members that Manyere had died in a car accident, but his relatives refused to let them in, the journalists said. At 10 a.m., police returned with a search warrant and ransacked the house, taking Manyere’s laptop, video camera, and tapes, lawyer Andrew Makoni told CPJ.   

“We believe that Shadreck Manyere has been illegally abducted and is in the custody of Harare police,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Tom Rhodes. “We hold the Zimbabwe government responsible for his safety and well-being, and demand his immediate release.”

A spokesman for the national police, Oliver Mandipaka, told CPJ that he could not confirm whether Manyere was in police custody and would inquire into the matter. Police at Harare Central Police Headquarters told CPJ that they were unaware of Manyere’s case.

More than 20 people have been abducted from their homes and offices over the past two weeks, according to international wire reports, including former TV news anchor and Zimbabwe Peace Project Director Jestina Mukoko. Suspected secret police raided Mukoko’s home in Norton on December 3 and he has not been seen since, the reports said.

Local journalists described the time during this year’s presidential elections in May and June in Zimbabwe as the harshest state-sponsored crackdown on the media in the country’s history.