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Zimbabwean prime minister threatens media, supporters attack reporters

The Prime Minister of Zimbabwe and leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, Morgan Tsvangirai, addresses the press in Harare, 20 May 2009. Supporters of the MDC have recently attacked journalists.
The Prime Minister of Zimbabwe and leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, Morgan Tsvangirai, addresses the press in Harare, 20 May 2009. Supporters of the MDC have recently attacked journalists.

Zimbo Zimbo/Demotix

Reporters Without Borders expresses its grave concern for freedom of information in Zimbabwe and the safety of local journalists after threats and attacks by members of the Movement for Democratic Change.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai leads the MDC, which is the opposition party.

“The ruling Zanu-PF party is not alone in showing hostility to the media and in opposing press freedom,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Members of the opposition are also responsible for a climate of intimidation. We call on the two leading government officials, President Robert Mugabe and the prime minister, as well as all political figures, to demonstrate respect for diversity of opinion.”

On 7 June, journalist Herbert Moyo of the weekly Zimbabwe Independent, was attacked by young MDC members while covering a demonstration in the Sunningdale neighbourhood of Harare, the capital. Moyo was taking photos of demonstrators when a group of young men surrounded him and beat him. MDC spokesman Douglas Mwonzora, stepped in to end the attack.

The day before, Tsvangirai bodyguards roughed up Mashudu Netsianda, a reporter for the daily Chronicle Newspaper in Bulawayo, before seizing his notebook and deleting recordings he had made on his mobile phone.

In May, the prime minister himself threatened the media. "You cannot have a newspaper with six articles saying Tsvangirai this and Tsvangirai that,” he said. “Every day! Ragai vakadaro. But musi umwe gava richadambura musungo (Leave them like that, but one day the tables will be turned). That kind of media has no future in a democratic Zimbabwe. "I want to tell you this, muchadya izvozvo (you will face the music)."

Reporters Without Borders expressed its concern in May about a harassment campaign against the media in the run-up to elections.

Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, has been placed on Reporters Without Borders' list of 39 "Predators of Press Freedom" published on 3 May.

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