Zimbabwean police raid news agency, seize equipment

Nairobi, October 3, 2012–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns a police raid on a news production company in Belgravia, a suburb north of the capital, on September 26 in which several journalists were detained and equipment confiscated.

Officials detained at least 10 journalists from the African Open Media Initiative (Afromedia) and released them without charge the next day, according to the Zimbabwean Union of Journalists (ZUJ). Sifelani Tsiko, editor of the outlet, and two other journalists have been forced to report regularly to the police for questioning, but no charges have been filed against them, Afromedia owner Crispen Sachikonye told CPJ.

Local journalists told CPJ that the officers had confiscated several computers, including video editing equipment. Afromedia, which produces content for the African Television Network (ATV), a U.K.-based broadcaster, has had only limited capabilities since the raid. On its Facebook page, ATV described the programming as focused largely on local and social issues. The network does not broadcast in Zimbabwe.

Local journalists told CPJ that officials from the Broadcasting, Telecommunications, and Revenue Authority were investigating possible importation violations. Foster Dongozi, then ZUJ’s secretary-general, said he believes the raid is a sign that more media houses will face problems as the country approaches next year’s general elections, according to news reports.

The Broadcast Authority of Zimbabwe has not licensed a single private broadcaster although it is mandated to do so, according to CPJ research.

“Zimbabwean authorities have a long record of stifling independent broadcast media using any regulatory means available,” said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. “We call on the police to return the outlet’s equipment immediately and allow journalists to work freely.”

  • For more data and analysis on Zimbabwe, visit CPJ’s Zimbabwe page here.