Journalists working for the private media and foreign newspapers are
terrified after the release of an alleged hit list compiled by the
Zimbabwe intelligence services, writes Torby Muturikwa.
The Zimbabwe government, however, has dismissed the hit list claims as cheap propaganda aimed at tarnishing its name.
A leaked document by the agents in the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) contained a list of 15 journalists accused of working "hand-in-hand" with enemies of the government.
Topping the list is Johannesburg-based ZimOnline editor Abel Mutsakani who was shot and seriously injured at his home by unknown gunmen in July.
Mutsakani needed surgery and still has a bullet lodged in the chest although he is recuperating at home.
Others on the list are the Zimbabwe Independent editor Vincent Kahiya, his news editor Dumisani Muleya and reporter Itai Mushekwe.
Veteran journalist Bill Saidi who deputies at The Standard and his chief reporter Caiphas Chimhete, Financial Gazette's trio of political editor Njabulo Ncube and reporters Kumbirai Mafunda and Clemence Manyukwe are also on the list.
Others are Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) secretary general Foster Dongozi, Wilf Mbanga and freelance reporters Gift Phiri, Ray Matikinye and Valentine Maponga.
Mbanga is the editor and owner of the weekly Zimbabwean newspaper which he runs from Southampton, England.
Saidi was in March sent a bullet in an envelope that also contained a threatening letter.
However, the Zimbabwe government has flatly denied that it is involved in such incidents.
Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu said: ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThe so-called hit list is a fake document meant to discredit the government. We know there are some of you that exaggerate issues and demonise the government but to target them by drawing up a list to arrest them or whatever, no. There is no such policy in government".
ZUJ has condemned the list and alerted other international journalistic organisations of the hist list.
In a statement, the media body said: "As a union, we are disturbed and worried that there appears to be a hit-list where our colleagues have been targeted for abduction, arrest and other unspecified action probably by state security agents who view them as a security risk.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWhat worries us the most is that the first person on the list, Abel Mutsakani, was recently shot in the chest in South Africa. Right now he is on the edge of his life with a bullet lodged next to his heart.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œWe want the government to guarantee the safety of all the 15 journalists on the list or to come clean by dissociating itself from the list which is written on a document with a government letterhead,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â ZUJ said.
The International Federation of Journalists described the hit-list as an affront to press freedom and called on the Harare authorities to ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œmake it clear to the international community that it is not targeting journalists".
"It can do that by guaranteeing the safety of all the journalists named and all other journalists in Zimbabwe," said IFJ general secretary Aidan White.
In March, a freelance television cameraman, Edward Chikomba, was abducted by suspected CIO operatives and later found dead about 167 kilometres outside Harare.
This followed suspicion that he had filmed and sold a documentary showing the brutal attacks on opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and civic groups officials during a prayer meeting in Harare on MARCH 11.
Chikomba was a former employee for the state broadcaster, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings where he worked in the television production department as a cameraman.