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IFJ demands safety guarantees for journalists after media "hit list" leaked from government

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 21 September 2007 IFJ media release:

IFJ Demands Safety Guarantees for Zimbabwe Journalists after Media Hit List Leaked from Government

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on the government of Zimbabwe to guarantee the safety of 15 journalists named on a hit list that appeared to have been leaked from official sources.

"The government of President Robert Mugabe must make it clear to the international community that it is not targeting journalists," said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White. "It can do that by guaranteeing the safety of all the journalists named and all other journalists in Zimbabwe."

The IFJ was shocked to learn of what appears to be a list of journalists who are accused of working with "hostile anti-Zimbabwean western [sic] governments" and to see that it included the name of Foster Dongozi, Secretary General of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists and member of the IFJ Executive Committee.

The IFJ has taken steps to assure his safety but it is calling on Zimbabwe's government to guarantee that Dongozi, his family and the others on the list will not come to any harm.

The leaked document appears to date from June this year and is headlined "2008 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections." A list of 15 names then follows under the heading "Targeted Journalists".

Below the names is a short note:

"The following media personnel and others as discussed in the previous meeting are to be placed under strict surveillance and taken in on the various dates set. They're working hand in hand with hostile anti-Zimbabwean western [sic] governments. Measures to be taken against the above including those in exile, are listed on page 4 summary."

Top of the list is Abel Mutsakani, who survived an assassination attempt when he was shot in South Africa on July 23. Mutsakani was an editor at the Zimbabwe daily newspaper The Daily News until it was banned in 2003. He moved to South Africa in 2004, so that he could report freely on Zimbabwe, and launched ZimOnline.

Also named is Gift Phiri, a correspondent of the Zimbabwean newspaper, who in early April was abducted by police and severely beaten in the capital, Harare. In August, Phiri was acquitted of charges of contravening the repressive Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA).

Another journalist named is Bill Saidi - deputy editor of the privately-owned newspaper The Standard ? who, in January, received a brown envelope containing a bullet and a threatening message warning him to "watch out".

All the journalists listed work for private media and do independent investigative reporting.

"In the run-up to the Presidential and Parliamentary elections expected in 2008, independent journalism will be key to ensuring that the voting process is fair and democratic," White said. "We will be watching Zimbabwe closely to ensure that our journalist colleagues are able to do their jobs freely and safely."

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries worldwide.

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