Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Zimbabwe journalist murdered 'over leaked Tsvangirai pictures'

It appears that Mugabe is taking things even further with the news that Edward Chikombo, the cameraman who took the pictures of badly injured opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, which caused such outrage throughout the world, has been found murdered. He was abducted from his house outside Harare last week and his body has been recently found near the village of Darwendale, 50 miles west of the capital.

A former colleague of Mr Chikombo said: "It's not clear whether the murder was a message to the media or a political killing." The footage of Mr Tsvangirai leaving a Harare courthouse with a suspected fractured skull, and then lying in a hospital bed, provoked a storm of international criticism of Robert Mugabe's regime. Journalists for the state broadcaster routinely film news as it happens in the country but cannot use the footage in heavily censored bulletins. Some pictures do find a way out of the country and in the past staff at ZBC have been sacked or harassed under suspicion of selling it to foreign broadcasters.

The government has banned both the BBC and CNN from reporting from Zimbabwe and any unaccredited journalist faces a two-year prison sentence.

Since taking power in 1980, Mr Mugabe has nationalised media outlets and the last independent voice disappeared with the recent closure of the Daily News. Local journalists are forced to work undercover for international outlets while accreditation papers are routinely refused to organisations seen as hostile.

Eyewitnesses say that he was abducted in the same kind of silver pickup truck that have been used for all the other abductions, and it's astonishing to find that Mugabe is not even denying involvement. Indeed, he wants people to know that he is behind this without admitting it outright. Regimes which function on fear need the populace to know that they can be punished or killed for protest.

Examples of the daily brutality being handed out in Zimbabwe abound:

Another local journalist, Gift Phiri, a senior reporter for the exiled The Zimbabwean newspaper, was detained and beaten by police on Sunday. Mr Phiri was picked up near his home in Sunningdale, in Harare. His lawyer, Rangu Nyamurundira, said his client had been badly beaten while in custody. "When I saw him, Gift could not sit down as he had been very badly beaten on his back and his buttocks. He told me four policemen, including the chief superintendent, had tortured him for hours.

"One of them pinned him to the floor with his boot, while the others beat him with an assortment of a baseball bat, metal handle and a police baton."

Shortly after his arrest Mr Phiri was accused of throwing petrol bombs at police stations but that charge was changed to, "practising as a journalist without accreditation".

The very fact that charges can be changed from "throwing petrol bombs" to "practising as a journalist without accreditation" gives some indication of the credibility of the Mugabe administration.

All of this is taking place against the backdrop of the proposed national strike which, as expected, got off to a very bad start in a country where 9 out of 10 citizens are looking for work. But even in that situation, where I had previously said I did not think that the strike would have any great success, the government still felt the need to intimidate people into going to work.

A wholesale retailer in the capital Harare said state security agents had visited him on Monday and warned him he would face "unpalatable consequences" if he did not open for business.

Nor are his threats limited to his own subjects. Astonishingly - and completely unreported in the British mainstream media - are the death threats being made by state run newspapers against the British Embassy political officer Gillian Dare who the Herald newspaper suggested could be welcomed home "in a body bag" if she continued to "play night nurse to arrested MDC hooligans."
"It will be a pity for her family to welcome her home at Heathrow Airport in a body bag just like some of her colleagues from Iraq and Afghanistan said an article on the newspaper's front page.

Dare, "labelled in some sections of the media as a British spy, could one day be caught in the crossfire as she plays night nurse to arrested MDC hooligans," the newspaper said.
So Mugabe's behaviour is becoming even more erratic, were such a thing to be even considered possible, where he is now issuing thinly veiled death threats to delegates from other nations.

And still Mbeki and the other African leaders remain silent. What will this man have to do to get the other African leaders to say, "Enough!"

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1 comment:

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