Zimbabwe currently leads the list of countries forcing journalists into
, writes Gugu Ziyaphapha.

According to a report by the Committee to Protect
Journalists (CPJ)
, Zimbabwe
alone accounts for 20% of the total number of journalists in the world who have
fled their homes.

"The 243 journalists surveyed by CPJ came from 36
countries, with more than half hailing from just five: Zimbabwe, Ethiopia,
Eritrea, Colombia, and Uzbekistan," reads the CPJ

The report says about 50 Zimbabwean journalists escaped
persecution and harassment from government between July 2001 –June 2007.

Sixty percent of the exiled journalists are from other
African countries and the remainder come from the rest of the world.

The other major culprits are Haiti,
Afghanistan, Liberia, Rwanda,
Gambia and Iran.

The report entitled "Journalists in Exile"
reveals at least three journos a month flee from their home countries, with
only one in seven later returning home.

Death threats, torture, beatings, likelihood of
imprisonment and harassment are the main reasons they have run away from their

Zimbabwe has repressive media laws and almost no freedom of
expression. Under the current regime hundreds of journalists have been arrested,
tortured, beaten and rendered jobless after the banning of several media

The report says that Zimbabwe
reporters have escaped to South Africa,
the United Kingdom, United States, Botswana,
Canada, Kenya and Zambia.

Not deterred, these determined newsmen have established
flourishing online and print publications and radio stations from their new bases.

Meanwhile, the Harare
government is stepping up its efforts to silence reporters moonlighting for web-based
and foreign publications.

Sources from the state media say colleagues have been
recruited and paid to spy on each other.

Another source from government’s secret service confirmed
that intelligence officers have been deployed in newsrooms and internet cafes
to hunt down journalists who use pen names to freelance for news organizations
government deems to be hostile to the Harare

The house of assembly recently
passed the Interception of Communications Bill , which will allow the
authorities to spy on the private electronic communications of citizens.