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Tenth journalist arrested since general elections

(RSF/IFEX) - On 1 May 2008, Reporters Without Borders condemned the arrest of freelance journalist Precious Shumba in a police raid on the Harare office of the international aid NGO ActionAid, where he works as a programmes officer. A reporter for "The Daily News" until it was forced to close, Shumba is the 10th journalist to be arrested since the general elections.

"The police are still operating as the armed wing of a beleaguered government, instead of keeping order and protecting citizens," the press freedom organisation said.

"Zimbabwe's police force was gradually turned into a militia that looks after the interests of Robert Mugabe and his cronies and cracks down on those who get in their way. Any peaceful solution to Zimbabwe's crisis must include the release of all the victims of this unjust situation, in which journalists have been favourite targets."

When the police raided ActionAid's office on the morning of 1 May, they arrested all of the five employees present, including Shumba and ActionAid country director Anne Chipembere. They are currently being held at the "Law and Order" section of the Harare central police station but have not yet been formally charged.

On 1 May, a Harare court again postponed a decision on a request for the release of freelance journalist Frank Chikowore on bail. Chikowore was arrested with 27 members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) on 15 April for allegedly disturbing the peace. At first he was wrongly accused of working without the required Media and Information Commission's accreditation. Now, he and six MDC members are charged with helping to set fire to a bus.

Another freelance journalist, Stanley Karombo, is currently hospitalised as a result of being badly beaten while detained from 18 to 21 April. Arrested as he was taking photos during a speech by President Mugabe at an independence day event at Gwanzura stadium in the Harare suburb of Highfield, he was taken to a room underneath the stadium and was beaten all day by several policemen, who accused him of "sending films to America."

"At 9 p.m., they blindfolded me and took me somewhere else," he told fellow journalists who visited him in hospital. "I woke up the next day in a cell. I am afraid at night. I can no longer stand the dark. I have the feeling that something terrible is going to happen. I keep having nightmares and I am having problems with my vision."

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