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Zimbabwe draws up hit list ahead of Presidential elections

Official persecutor: Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe addresses the 62nd United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, September 26, 2007. Photo: Reuters/Mike Segar

The Zimbabwean intelligence service has compiled a blacklist of 15 journalists working for independent news media who are to be subjected to “strict surveillance” and other unspecified “measures” in the run-up to next year’s presidential and parliamentary elections.

“The Zimbabwean government’s paranoia is accompanied by systematic repression,” Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) said. “This alarming blacklist is an outrage in the approach to what are crucial elections for Zimbabwe’s future. President Robert Mugabe will be held fully responsible if anything happens to these journalists.”

The existence of the blacklist was revealed in an apparently-leaked copy of a single page with the government’s letterhead that was published in the independent Zimbabwean press on September 26. Dated June 2007 and headed “2008 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections,” it contains a list of 15 leading Zimbabwean journalists under the subheading “Targeted journalists.”

The foot of the page has this paragraph: “The following media personnel and others as discussed in the previous meeting are to be placed under strict surveillance and taken in on the various dates set. They’re working hand in hand with hostile anti-Zimbabwean western governments. Measures to be taken against the above including those in exile, are listed on page 4 summary.”

“The government of President Robert Mugabe must make it clear to the international community that it is not targeting journalists,” said International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) General Secretary Aidan White. “It can do that by guaranteeing the safety of all the journalists named and all other journalists in Zimbabwe.”

The blacklist is headed by Abel Mutsakani, the editor of the website ZimOnline, and Gift Phiri, a freelance journalist and Harare correspondent of the Zimbabwean, a privately-owned weekly based in London. Phiri was arrested and beaten in detention in April before being acquitted by a Harare court of working without accreditation from the powerful, government controlled Media Information Committee. Mutsakani was shot by three gunmen in South Africa in July but miraculously survived.

Also on the list are Vincent Kahiya, the publisher of the privately-owned Zimbabwe Independent daily, its editor, Dumisani Muleya, and one of its journalists, Itai Mushekwe ; Bill Saidi, the deputy editor of the Standard, a privately-owned daily, and Caiphas Chimhete, one of its journalists ; Njabulo Ncube, the political editor of the privately-owned Financial Gazette daily and two of its journalists, Kumbirai Mafunda and Clemence Manyukwe ; Zimbabwean Union of Journalists secretary-general Foster Dongozi and Wilf Mbanga, the founder of the Daily News, which is now closed; and journalists Valentine Maponga, Itai Dzamara and Ray Matikinye.

“In the run-up to the Presidential and Parliamentary elections expected in 2008, independent journalism will be key to ensuring that the voting process is fair and democratic,” White said. “We will be watching Zimbabwe closely to ensure that our journalist colleagues are able to do their jobs freely and safely.”

Date posted: September 28, 2007 Date modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 694