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Zimbabwe Media Activists Sound Alarm as Independent Papers Face Barriers

  • Ntungamili Nkomo

Officials of the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said distribution of his newsletter has also been prevented in Magunje, a larger village in Mashonaland West

The independent daily newspapers which returned to the streets in Zimbabwe in 2010 in the first wave of media reform under a national unity government are being blocked from circulating in politically volatile Mashonaland West province, sources said Wednesday.

The sources said youth militants affiliated with President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF and soldiers have been blocking the sale of the Daily News and Newsday.

Officials of the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said distribution of his newsletter has also been prevented in Magunje, a larger village and growth point, also in Mashonaland West.

MDC activists in the area reported intimidation and harassment.

Deputy Information Minister Murisi Zwizwai of the Tsvangirai MDC formation confirmed such reports, which he described as worrisome, particularly in light of the meeting of all three unity government parties called last week to denounce political violence.

"The problem is that we have people like [Information Minister] Webster Shamu and [Information Ministry Permanent Secretary] George Charamba continuing to intimidate the independent media, threatening to withdraw their licenses saying they are for the regime change agenda," Zwizwai said.

"Such talk does not help things on the ground where, especially in the rural communities we continue to receive reports of independent publications being banned."

Media Commission Member Mathew Takaona said press houses should report such incidents to his commission and the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee for action. JOMIC was established to track compliance with the Global Political Agreement for power sharing, which prescribes a range of reforms, especially in the media.

Elsewhere, two weekly Standard newspaper journalists detained in Harare on Tuesday were freed Wednesday afternoon on US$100 bail apiece.

Editor Nevanji Madanhire and reporter Nqaba Matshazi were ordered back in court on December 20 for trial on charges they stole documents from an insurance company owned by Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe official Munyaradzi Kereke.

They are also facing charges of defamation for reporting that Kereke's Green Card Medical Society is financially on the ropes.

Matshazi told VOA that he stands by his story.

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