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IFJ Fears More Media Repression Ahead of Presidential Run-Off in Zimbabwe03 June 2008
Media Release, 2 June 2008: The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today expressed its fears of more repression of media ahead of a second round of presidential elections on June 27 after attacks on media workers and the recent arrest of three South African men accused of transporting broadcasting equipment allegedly belonging to Britain's Sky News television station.
In a separate incident the following day, a truck carrying 60,000 copies of the private newspaper The Zimbabwean on Sunday was hijacked by gunmen who burnt the copies and assaulted the driver and his assistant.
About two weeks ago, freelance journalist Sydney Saize was beaten by unknown individuals who accused him of being a "sell-out." "We fear that the regime of President Robert Mugabe will increase its intimidation of and attacks on media as we come closer to the presidential run-off election," said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa Office. "We condemn these attacks and President Mugabe should understand that media will find a way to report on events in the country and that the restrictions should be dropped."
The three South Africa nationals, Bennet Hassen Sono, Resemate Chauke, and Simon Maodi, were arrested by the police on May 23 in a village close to the southwestern city of Bulawayo. The broadcasting equipment labeled "Sky News" included satellite dishes, transmitters, telephone handsets and audio and videotapes, laptops, computers and discs.
According to sources, the men said they did not know the content of the boxes and were told to carry the equipment from Bulawayo to South Africa. They are accused of contravening provisions of the Post and Telecommunications Act for "being in possession of equipment believed to be used for broadcasting without a licence" and contravening a Section of the Immigration Act. They appeared in court on Friday and are expected to be sentenced today.
South African Sapa news agency quoted Sky News bureau chief in Johannesburg, Dan Williams, saying the three people arrested were not Sky employees and they were investigating the matter.
On Wednesday the police arrested a Zimbabwean, Craig Edy, over allegations of having stored the equipment in his factory. All four are still in jail.
Separately, Davison Maruziva, the editor of the privately owned weekly The Standard, was freed on bail on May 9, the day after his arrest on charges of "false statements prejudicial to the state and contempt of court." Maruziva has been ordered to report to the police every Monday until his case has been finalised.
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