The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) says that local media
and reporters in Zimbabwe are facing official intimidation in the
countdown to the country's Presidential election next week and it fears
an imminent raid on the offices of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists, according to a media release.
The threats to the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) – the only independent national body covering journalists in all sectors of media and an IFJ affiliate – emerged today shortly after a report from an international media mission to the country last week confirmed that political violence in the country and intimidation of journalists and media staff were casting a shadow over the run-up to the election.
"We are deeply concerned that three foreign media staff are in detention and that media support groups have come under official pressure," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "Now we fear that the ZUJ is in the firing line. It is important that the international community warns the government of Robert Mugabe to keep its hands off media and allow journalists to report freely."
Details of the mission from June 8 to 13 made up of the IFJ, the Southern Africa Editors' Forum, the Southern Africa Journalists Association, the Media Institute of Southern Africa and the Network of African Freedom of Expression Organisations (NAFEO) can be found here: http://africa.ifj.org/en/articles/statement-of-the-zimbabwe-fact-finding-mission-of-african-media-organisations-13-june-2008-harare-zimbabwe
The mission members say the harassment, arrests and threats against human rights defenders, including media and human rights lawyers, is growing. Economic challenges for media combined with the arrests, threats and harassment means some printed publications are barely surviving, while the state media is under the severe control of the party in power and is used as an exclusive campaign tool.
A simple media monitoring of the content of the state owned newspapers and broadcast news bulletins over the period of the mission displayed biased reporting embedded in hate-speech with the state media contributing to the heightening of political tensions.
"The situation facing media could not be more dangerous," said White. "It's important to focus all our efforts in ensuring that journalists are allowed to work without further intimidation."
The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 122 countries worldwide.
For further information, contact the IFJ Africa Office, tel: +221 33 842 01 43; or the IFJ, International Press Center, Residence Palace 155, Rue de la Loi – Bloc C, B-1040 Brussels, Belgium, tel: +322 235 2200 / 2207, fax: +322 235 2219, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Internet: +http://www.ifj.org