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Photojournalist flees country following assault by police, confiscation of his property

(MISA/IFEX) - Freelance photojournalist Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi has decided to flee to South Africa with his family after being assaulted by the police and having his car confiscated. Before leaving the country, Mukwazhi told MISA-Zimbabwe that the police accused him of possessing an "improperly registered vehicle" and of having used the vehicle to travel and cover the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader, Morgan Tsvangirayi, in the run up to the 29 March presidential elections.

According to Mukwazhi, some plain clothes police officers came to his house at around 5:30 a.m. (local time) on 29 July 2008, broke down the main door and beat up him and his maid. The journalist was taken to Southerton police station and released after a couple of hours without charge. His car was confiscated by the police.

The journalist says he tried to prove that the vehicle was properly registered by producing the registration papers. He added that the police told him they were aware that he used the vehicle during election time when he followed Tsvangirayi's campaign trail.

Mukwazhi told MISA-Zimbabwe he was concerned for his safety and that of his family. He had also seen his car being driven around the city centre by unknown persons. The vehicle and assault matter are being handled by Harare lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, the journalist said.

Mukwazhi asked MISA-Zimbabwe to hold on to the information until after he had left the country.

This was not the first time that Mukwazhi was beaten and his property confiscated. In March 2007, his laptop and cameras were destroyed by the police when they violently broke up a civic society prayer meeting the journalist was covering. His car was also confiscated at that time. MISA-Zimbabwe's legal officer had to make several representations to have the car released. The journalist was severely beaten and had to seek medical attention.

MISA-Zimbabwe sees this latest attack on Mukwazhi as an indication of the state's unwillingness to give into the granting of freedom of expression, access to information and freedom of the media, even at this crucial political moment in Zimbabwe's life. MISA calls upon all relevant authorities to cease attacks on Mukwazhi and other media workers and release his property.

For further information on the March 2007 attack on Mukwazhi, see:

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