GEOFF NYAROTA is the editor of The Daily News, Zimbabwe’s only independent daily newspaper. Launched less than two years ago, the Harare-based paper has managed to become Zimbabwe’s most influential voice despite repeated attempts by President Robert Mugabe’s government to silence it.
Nyarota’s office still bears the scars of the homemade bomb that was thrown at the front door from a passing car in April 2000. And in January 2001, unknown assailants blew up the paper’s printing presses. Police investigations have languished and no arrests have been made, although credible sources have attributed these attacks to the Zimbabwean military.
Most recently, on August 16, 2001, Nyarota and three other journalists from The Daily News were arrested and charged with publishing “rumor or false information likely to discredit security forces” after a front-page article reported that police vehicles had been used to support violent raids on some white-owned commercial farms. A judge invalidated the charges and the journalists were freed days later.
Read an interview with Geoff Nyarota at the Helen Suzman foundation Web site.
For background, read an article about Geoff Nyarota at CNN.com.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Three days before I left Harare for New York, I was arrested for the second time in three months.
When the police came for me in August, it was at the ungodly hour of 12.30 am. This time around, there was a vast improvement on the timing they came at 6.00 am.
President Mugabe’s campaign against the media has also targeted foreign journalists. Many of them have been deported. It is now next to impossible for foreign correspondents to be accredited to work in Zimbabwe. What amazes Zimbabwean journalists is how easily foreign media have accepted this.
Unlike the deported correspondents Zimbabwean journalists have no other home to go back to. They wait, like sheep to be slaughtered, for the day when the police pay them a nocturnal visit, or the peace of their newsroom is shattered by another bomb.
The journalists of The Daily News now require more than the skills of their profession. They need courage and determination. They need to stand up to the continuous intimidation and harassment by those determined to see that their paper does not tell it like it is.
“Telling it like it is,” is the motto of The Daily News.
My greatest frustration as the editor of the newspaper is my inability to guarantee the safety of my staff.
Mr. Mugabe’s government has made no secret of its intentions: by the time of presidential elections, there should be no foreign eyes prying on the political affairs of Zimbabwe. It would be the greatest betrayal of these journalists if, at this crucial juncture, the international media community turned out to be the ally, not of the people, but of their despotic rulers.
I dedicate this award to the staff of The Daily News, to my wife, Virginia, who is present here tonight and to my daughter, Rufaro, whose birthday is today