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How CPJ investigates and classifies attacks on the press

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."

FEBRUARY 25, 2005
Posted: March 17, 2005

The Weekly Times

The government-controlled Media and Information Commission (MIC) shuttered the independent regional newspaper The Weekly Times after just eight weeks of publication, saying the newspaper violated the country's media legislation. Local journalists told CPJ the closure was part of a systematic clampdown on critical media in the run-up to parliamentary elections scheduled for March 31.

The MIC canceled The Weekly Times's publishing license for one year, saying it had misrepresented information on its application for accreditation, a violation of the 2002 Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA). MIC Chairman Tafataona Mahoso said the newspaper had promised to make social issues a priority but had focused instead on political advocacy. The state-owned daily The Herald quoted Mahoso as saying that the paper's reporting had been "narrowly political, clearly partisan and even separatist."

One local source told CPJ that The Weekly Times, based in Zimbabwe's second-largest city, Bulawayo, was considered a threat to the government because it covered economic and political problems and provided a platform for airing regional grievances. The newspaper's owner, Godfrey Ncube, said The Weekly Times was closed for political reasons, and that he would appeal the decision in court, according to Agence France-Presse.

The Weekly Times is the fourth private newspaper to be closed under AIPPA. Others include the Daily News, the country's only independent daily; the Daily News on Sunday; and the weekly Tribune.

Posted: March 14, 2005

Cornelius Nduna, freelance

In early February, police began searching for Nduna, a freelance television producer and reporter who worked for several foreign media organizations, on suspicion of possessing "sensitive tapes" passed to him by an employee of the state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, according to his lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa.

Mtetwa said intelligence agents informed her that the tapes were of "youth training camps" reportedly used to train pro-government militia blamed for attacks on members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and other perceived government opponents.

According to international media reports, Nduna went into exile after security forces raided his office and said they were looking for him.

MARCH 7, 2005
Posted: March 17, 2005

SW Radio Africa

The shortwave transmission of SW Radio Africa, a private broadcaster based in the United Kingdom and founded by exiled Zimbabwean journalists, was jammed in Zimbabwe during the run-up to March 31 parliamentary elections, the station and other news media reported. According to the South Africa–based Web site for the banned independent Daily News, the government installed jamming equipment at a local air base to interfere with radio signals.

In response to the jamming, SW Radio Africa expanded the number of frequencies carrying its broadcasts and added a transmission on medium-wave. However, on March 16, station manager Gerry Jackson told CPJ that the government had succeeded in blocking all of the station's transmissions.

An article in the state-owned Sunday Mail quoted a government spokesman as saying that "the Government is not in any way blocking SW Radio Africa as falsely claimed." The same article denounced the broadcaster as "heavily sponsored by ex-Rhodesians to illegally transmit pro-opposition and imperialist propaganda to Zimbabwe."

SW Radio Africa was launched in 2001 and broadcasts political reporting and commentary, as well as phone-in programs featuring Zimbabwe residents.

MARCH 31, 2005
Posted: May 10, 2005

Toby Harnden, The Sunday Telegraph
Julian Simmonds, The Sunday Telegraph

Harnden, chief foreign correspondent for the London-based Sunday Telegraph, and photographer Simmonds were arrested at a polling station in Norton, a town near the capital, Harare, according to a statement from the newspaper. The journalists were charged with working without accreditation under Zimbabwe's draconian media law, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), which requires all journalists in Zimbabwe to register with the government-controlled Media and Information Commission (MIC).

Under AIPPA, reporting without accreditation can mean a jail sentence of up to two years. Harnden and Simmonds also faced a charge under Zimbabwe's immigration law, their lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, told CPJ.

George Charamba, Zimbabwe's secretary for information and publicity, told the state-run Herald newspaper on April 1 that the two would be deported. But a trial proceeded on April 5, and on April 4 prosecutors invoked their authority to override a magistrate's decision granting bail to the journalists, Mtetwa said.

On April 14, both journalists were acquitted of the charge of reporting without accreditation, and were released on bail. Magistrate Never Diza said that state prosecutors had failed to prove that Harnden and Simmonds, who said they had traveled to Zimbabwe as tourists, were working in the country illegally. "All in all, the state failed to provide sufficient evidence to show the accused persons have a case to answer," Diza said, according to news reports.

On April 15, the journalists were handed over to immigration authorities for deportation after being separately acquitted of the immigration charge. Later the same day, Harnden and Simmonds boarded a plan and safely reached neighboring South Africa, a Telegraph spokeswoman told CPJ.

According to state media in Zimbabwe, hundreds of foreign journalists were accredited to cover Zimbabwe's parliamentary elections on March 31. However, dozens were also refused accreditation and accused of political bias, including all journalists from the BBC and from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

Charamba said in a statement that the BBC journalists were denied access because "they already perceive the elections as not free and fair," according to the Zambia-based independent daily The Post. At least one journalist from the Daily Telegraph, the Sunday Telegraph's sister paper, was denied accreditation, which Charamba said was "due to having previously broken Zimbabwean and international broadcasting law."

APRIL 1, 2005
April 7, 2005

Fredrik Sperling, Sveriges Television (STV)

Sperling, a reporter for Sweden's public broadcaster, Sveriges Television (SVT), was arrested in central Harare and deported to South Africa, despite having been accredited to cover Zimbabwe's March 31 parliamentary elections.

Sperling, who is based in Johannesburg, told CPJ that he was brought to a police station outside of Harare on March 30 after filming a large farm expropriated several years ago by the Zimbabwean government and now occupied by a relative of President Robert Mugabe. Initially released, Sperling said, he was later arrested and deported by signed order of Tafataona Mahoso, chairman of the government-controlled Media and Information Commission (MIC).

Under Zimbabwe's draconian media legislation, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), all journalists in the country must register with the MIC or else face criminal prosecution and up to two years in jail. While Zimbabwe's state media reported that hundreds of foreign journalists were accredited to cover Zimbabwe's parliamentary elections, dozens were refused accreditation and accused of political bias, including all journalists from the BBC and from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

The editors-in-chief of two STV news programs sent a letter protesting Sperling's deportation to Zimbabwe's ambassador in Sweden. Sperling is also appealing the government's decision to brand him a "prohibited immigrant," which bars his re-entry into Zimbabwe.

APRIL 20, 2005
Posted: April 27, 2005

Davison Maruziva, The Standard

Savious Kwinika, The Standard

Police brought criminal charges against Standard editor Maruziva. The following day they also brought charges against reporter Kwinika. Both journalists were charged in connection with an April 10 story alleging election irregularities—specifically for deliberately publishing false information prejudicial to the state, according to their lawyer Linda Cook. The journalists subsequently admitted inaccuracies in the story, authored by Kwinika, but said these inaccuracies were not intentional and pleaded not guilty.

Kwinika and Maruziva were charged under Section 15 of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) or, in the alternative, Section 80 of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), Cook told CPJ.

The government used these laws to detain and harass dozens of independent journalists. It used AIPPA to shutter four critical publications including the country's only independent daily, The Daily News. The Standard is one of Zimbabwe's few remaining independent newspapers.

The offending story, entitled "Ballot boxes found at home," alleged that police had arrested Zaka District Administrator Nyashadzashe Zindove after ballot boxes and ballot papers were found at his home. A teacher, who was also a presiding officer in the March 31 general elections, had also been arrested after she allegedly lost a ballot box in unclear circumstances, the paper said.

However, the paper later admitted that some of the information on which the story had been based was wrong. On April 24 The Standard published another story admitting that Zindove had been wrongly named. "In fact, no ballot boxes or papers were found at his home, nor was he arrested," the paper said. On the other hand, it reported that acting District Administrator John Dzinorama Mubako and the teacher Norah Chisi had been charged under Zimbabwe's Electoral Act for failing to transmit ballot books to the constituency election officer.

In its April 17 edition, The Standard issued an apology to Zindove and his family, Cook told CPJ.

MAY 18, 2005
Posted: May 25, 2005

Frank Chikowore, freelance

Security forces detained Chikowore as he filmed police clearing Harare’s central business district of street vendors, according to a lawyer for the press freedom group MISA-Zimbabwe. He was held overnight without charge.

MISA-Zimbabwe legal officer Wilbert Mandinde 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 said the journalist suffered swelling in his left foot after being manhandled by police. MISA-Zimbabwe reported that police confiscated Chikowore’s video camera and two notebooks.

JULY 13, 2005
Posted: July 21, 2005

The Tribune

The government-controlled Media and Information Commission (MIC) refused to allow the independent weekly The Tribune to reopen, after suspending it for one year in June 2004 for allegedly violating Zimbabwe's repressive Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (known as AIPPA).

The commission denied The Tribune a license on financial grounds, stating that the newspaper had failed to show that it had enough capital to resume publication, according to the local chapter of the Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA). The paper's publisher, Kindness Paradza, says that the newspaper has sufficient financial backing, MISA reported.

An appeal against the newspaper's suspension was launched in 2004, and is still pending, according to MISA.

For more information on The Tribune, see CPJ's June 2004 letter: http://www.cpj.org/protests/04ltrs/Zim15jun04pl.html

JULY 18, 2005
Posted: July 21, 2005

Daily News and Daily News on Sunday

The government-controlled Media and Information Commission (MIC) refused, once again, to license the banned independent Daily News and its sister paper, the Daily News on Sunday, both of which were shut down in September 2003 for violating the country's draconian press laws.

According to the state-owned Herald newspaper, the MIC rejected the newspapers' application on the grounds that their parent company, Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), had violated the 2002 Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), which requires all private media and journalists to register with the commission—the same grounds used by the MIC to shutter the paper in 2003.

In its decision, the MIC accused ANZ of publishing an unregistered newspaper and of employing unaccredited journalists, the Herald reported. However, when journalists working for the Daily News have attempted to register in the past, they have been turned down because they were employed by an unregistered company, according to CPJ research.

Sam Sipepa Nkomo, chief executive of ANZ, said he was shocked by this decision. In an interview with CPJ, he said the refusal indicated that the MIC "has not considered the current application at all," despite its repeated requests for additional financial and other documentation. Nkomo said that ANZ would challenge the commission's decision in court.
ANZ filed thi application for a license in March, after the Supreme Court ruled that the MIC should reconsider its 2003 decision to deny ANZ registration under Zimbabwe's repressive media laws.

AUGUST 12, 2005
Updated: December 1, 2005

Kelvin Jakachira, Daily News


Jakachira, accused of working without accreditation for the banned Daily News, went on trial in a Harare court, according to his lawyer and the Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA). Jakachira faced up to two years in prison in what was seen as a test case for other former Daily News journalists.

Jakachira was accused of working for the banned paper between January and September 2003 without the government license required by the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA). The Daily News, Zimbabwe's only independent daily, was forced to close in September 2003 after the Supreme Court ruled that it was operating illegally under AIPPA.

Jakachira's lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, told CPJ the defense presented evidence that her client had applied for a license from the government-controlled Media and Information Commission (MIC), but received no reply—meaning that he was not operating illegally under AIPPA. MIC chairman Mahoso Tafataona argued that his agency could not accredit Jakachira to work for the Daily News because it was a banned publication, she said.

On August 31, the court acquitted Jakachira of working without accreditation, in what local observers called an important precedent for other former Daily News journalists, many of whom face similar charges. Magistrate Prisca Chigumba ruled that Jakachira had applied for accreditation in accordance with AIPPA, but had received no response from the government. Chigumba ruled that the journalist was entitled to work while awaiting the outcome of his application.

AIPPA makes it a criminal offense for media outlets and individual journalists to work without accreditation from the MIC. The charge of working without a license carries a prison sentence of up to two years, but no journalist has yet been convicted under the repressive law. Since AIPPA became law in 2002, the government of President Robert Mugabe has used it to detain and harass dozens of critical journalists, and to shut down four newspapers, including the Daily News and the Daily News on Sunday.

AUGUST 12, 2005
Posted September 12, 2005

Willie Mponda, The Sun

Mponda, editor of community newspaper The Sun in the central town of Gweru, was convicted of publishing false information "prejudicial to the state" under the repressive Public Order and Security Act (POSA), according to local sources. He was fined Zimbabwean $100,000 (U.S. $5), which he paid, according to the Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA). The offense under POSA carries a potential prison term of up to five years, MISA reported.

The charge stemmed from a June article in The Sun alleging that a local woman committed suicide after the police destroyed her telephone shop during a nationwide government campaign to destroy "illegal" structures. The operation, known as Operation Restore Order, leveled vast swaths of residential areas, leaving thousands of people homeless. Many local and international observers accused the government of targeting opposition supporters, who are mostly based in Zimbabwe's cities.

In Mponda's trial, the state denied the destruction of the telephone shop and said that no Gweru woman committed suicide as a result of the destruction. The Sun had printed a retraction of the story, which the government claimed proved Mponda's guilt, according to MISA. Mponda had pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Although many journalists have been charged under POSA, Mponda was the first to be convicted under its provisions since the law's enactment in 2002.