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Prominent Zimbabwean journalist and rights activist abducted

Prominent Zimbabwean journalist and human rights activist Jestina Mukoko was abducted at dawn on Wednesday from her home near capital Harare.

The journalist, a former broadcaster at the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) then privately-owned Voice of the People (VOP), was snatched from her home in Norton, 40 kilometres from the capital, by 15 men in plain clothes, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said. “One of the unmarked vehicles which was used in the kidnapping was a grey Mazda 323 Familia,” ZLHR added. The reason for the abduction is still unknown and police have refused to comment.

"The abduction or arrest of Jestina Mukoko is part of an established pattern of harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders by Zimbabwean authorities in an attempt to discourage them from documenting and publicising the violations that are taking place," said Erwin van der Borght, Amnesty International's Africa programme director.

“Everything must be done to secure the swift release of Jestina Mukoko and to ensure her safety," Paris-based Reporters sans frontières (RSF) said. “If it is an arrest and the state security apparatus is involved, it should immediately make clear what the journalist is charged with and publicly announce where she is being held. If it is on the other hand a kidnapping, the authorities should rapidly do everything possible to find those responsible for this cowardly act and bring them to justice."

Jestina Mukoko heads the human rights body, the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), that has reported regularly on political violence in 2008 as ZANU-PF, the party of President Robert Mugabe, was beaten in the first round of elections in March by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and around 200 opposition supporters were killed. Refusing to accept defeat, the government in September signed a powersharing agreement with the opposition but the two sides have so far failed to agree on the allocation of key ministries.

Freelance cameraman, Edward Chikomba, was found dead on March 31, 2007 after being abducted in similar circumstances. Despite an absence of proof, suspicion has been directed at intelligence service agents.

"We hold the Zimbabwean authorities responsible for anything that may happen to Jestina Mukoko. She should be released immediately and while in detention the authorities should guarantee her safety and ensure that she has access to a lawyer and family, as well as food, warm clothes and medication," said van der Borght.

Amnesty has also received information that several trade unionists, including Secretary General of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe Raymond Majongwe and a journalist working for a South African broadcaster, were arrested in Harare on Wednesday. Amnesty International fears that the authorities may have launched a new campaign to silence human rights activists in the wake of today's protest action by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions.

Date posted: December 4, 2008 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 283