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Armed men intercept, burn media vehicle carrying newspapers, beat driver and assistant

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF condemns the continuing use of violence against the independent press after 60,000 copies of "The Zimbabwean On Sunday" newspaper were intercepted and torched on the evening of 24 May 2008, and a freelance reporter was attacked and beaten in the eastern city of Mutare.

"These attacks must not remain unpunished", the press freedom organisation said. "Since the 29 March general elections, the authorities have been guilty of at least 12 violations of their national and international undertakings in the form of physical attacks and arbitrary arrests of journalists. These attacks on the independent press are now being carried out by unidentified men armed with AK-47 rifles and using 4WD vehicles."

A truck containing 60,000 copies of "The Zimbabwean On Sunday", which is edited by Zimbabwean exiles based in Britain and printed in South Africa, was intercepted on the main road linking South Africa and Zimbabwe, about 150 km south of Masvingo, by eight gunmen with AK-47 type rifles. The newspaper's editor, Wilf Mbanga, said he assumed the gunmen were Zimbabwean intelligence agents.

They forced driver Christmas Ramabulana and distribution assistant Tapfumaneyi Kancheta to drive the truck to a deserted spot, where they set it on fire. They also seized and burned Kancheta's passport, and beat him and Ramabulana before departing, leaving the two of them with their torched truck.

In a separate incident, freelance journalist Sydney Saize was attacked outside Mutare, near the border with Mozambique, on the evening of 18 May. He was returning home when four men invited him to get into their vehicle with them. After driving a short distance, they stopped, accused him of being a traitor and gave him a beating. They finally left him at the side of the road.

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