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Mexican journalist arrested in Zimbabwe despite proper accreditation

IPI calls on government to end practices hostile to journalism

(IPI/IFEX) - Vienna, 16 February 2010 - A foreign journalist was arrested in Zimbabwe by state security agents on Friday. The Mexican journalist was attempting to film tourist attractions in the town of Masvingo. At the time of his arrest, the journalist was travelling with permission from the tourism ministry, in the tourist minister's car with his driver, Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi told the Zimbabwean.

"Despite promises from the new unity government last year that press freedom would be restored to Zimbabwe, state security forces continue to arbitrarily arrest and detain journalists," IPI Director David Dadge said. "While there has been much talk of improvement to the press freedom climate over the past year, the Zimbabwean government still needs to sensitize police and intelligence agents to the rights of journalists. It is unacceptable for criminal and security legislation to be used as tools for jailing reporters."

The Mexican journalist, whose name and affiliated news organization have yet to be reported in the local media, is the second to be arrested since the start of the year.

On 18 January, freelance journalist Andrison Manyere was arrested while covering a demonstration for better education by the organization Women and Men of Zimbabwe (WOZA). He was released the same day, according to local news reports.

Earlier that week, freelancer Stanley Kwenda was forced to flee the country after receiving a death threat on Friday 15 January. The caller, allegedly a police officer, warned Kwenda that he would not survive the weekend. According to the Zimbabwean, the threat was linked to an article published in that newspaper earlier that month. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvanigirai, of the Movement for Democratic Change (MCD), said that if these allegations were true it would be in contravention of the 2008 power-sharing agreement between the MDC and President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, the Zimbabwean reported.

The Zimbabwean itself, an independent newspaper based in London, has been the target of various press freedom violations. On 11 February, the directors of the Zimbabwean's new distribution company, Adquest, were arrested for publishing "false statements" in connection with an article in a January edition of the newspaper. According to an article written by Zimbabwean editor and publisher Wilf Mbanga, the two distributors did not write the article in question and were not responsible for the paper's distribution at the time.

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    After the publication of a story in "The Zimbabwean" newspaper, freelancer Stanley Kwenda was reportedly told that he would "not survive the weekend."

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