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Prominent journalist and human rights activist kidnapped from her home

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has voiced deep disquiet after journalist and human rights activist Jestina Mukoko was abducted from her home near the capital, Harare, at dawn on 3 December 2008.

The journalist, a former broadcaster at the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) then privately-owned Voice of The People (VOP), was snatched from her home in Norton, 40 kilometres from the capital, by 15 men in plain clothes, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said.

"One of the unmarked vehicles which was used in the kidnapping was a grey Mazda 323 Familia," the ZLHR added. The reason for the kidnapping is still unknown and police have refused to comment.

"Everything must be done to secure the swift release of Jestina Mukoko and to ensure her safety," the worldwide press freedom organisation said. "If it is an arrest and the state security apparatus is involved, it should immediately make clear what the journalist is charged with and publicly announce where she is being held."

"If it is, on the other hand, a kidnapping, the authorities should rapidly do everything possible to find those responsible for this cowardly act and bring them to justice," it added.

Jestina Mukoko heads the human rights body the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), which has reported regularly on political violence in 2008 since ZANU-PF, the party of President Robert Mugabe, was beaten in the first round of elections in March by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), led by opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. Around 200 opposition supporters were killed in election-related violence. Refusing to accept defeat, the government signed a power-sharing agreement with the opposition in September, but the two sides have so far failed to agree on the allocation of key ministries.

On 31 March 2007, freelance cameraman Edward Chikomba was found dead after being abducted in similar circumstances. Despite an absence of proof, suspicion has been directed at intelligence service agents.

For further information on the Chikomba case, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/82258

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