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"Midlands Observer" editor threatened for alleged pro-opposition bias; journalist threatened for wearing free expression T-shirt

(MISA/IFEX) - The editor of the "Midlands Observer", Flata Kavinga, was threatened by a war veteran on 29 May 2008. The newspaper is based in Zimbabwe's city of Kwekwe in the Midlands province.

According to Kavinga, he was approached by the war veteran named Diva while he was standing in a queue in a bank. Diva began by asking Kavinga if he knew the "Midlands Observer" editor because there was a "programme of action" to deal with him. The war veteran accused the newspaper of being pro-opposition by supporting the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and writing articles critical of the state. Furthermore, he accused the paper of being anti-government, alleging that it only publishes articles meant to discredit ZANU-PF.

Upon notifying Diva that he was in actual fact the editor of the newspaper in question, Kavinga was told to be careful or face the consequences.

Subsequently, on 1 June, another "Midlands Observer" journalist, Kudakwashe Zvarayi, was threatened by some top ZANU-PF officials of the Kwekwe district, after being spotted putting on a MISA-Zimbabwe World Press Freedom Day t-shirt.

According to Zvarayi, the officials said: "Who are you to demand media freedom? Who has deprived you of this freedom which you are clamoring for? If you continue putting on this t-shirt we are going to beat you up and burn the T-shirt also."

MISA-Zimbabwe condemns the threatening and harassment of media practitioners going about their professional duties, especially in light of the increase in the number of journalists who are being wantonly victimized for writing articles viewed to be "unfavorable" to the interests of certain individuals.

MISA-Zimbabwe calls upon the authorities to bring to justice perpetrators of politically- motivated violence against journalists and ordinary citizens of Zimbabwe. This is especially urgent in light of the post election violence which has become rampant in the rural areas in the run-up to the run-off elections scheduled for 27 June 2008.

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