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Home > SPJ News > Society Denounces Zimbabwe’s Violence Against Journalists

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Society Denounces Zimbabwe’s Violence Against Journalists

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
2/23/2001



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Contacts: Ray Marcano, SPJ President, 937/225-2323 or rmarcano@spj.org; John Hopkins, SPJ International Journalism Committee chairman, 305/376-3564 or JDH-Miami@att.net

INDIANAPOLIS — The Society of Professional Journalists is calling for Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe to stop a growing campaign against journalists and other independent voices in the African nation.

"It can cost you liberty or life to speak the truth in Zimbabwe today. The threat is especially real to journalists," said John Hopkins, SPJ International Journalism Committee chairman and copy editor for The Miami Herald. "I hope that news writers and editors everywhere pay attention to what is happening, and not let independent reporting be silenced — certainly not without protest and not without showing all the world what is going on."

Several recent acts of violence and intimidation have resulted from published work that countered the views of the Mugabe regime.


"Mr. President, nobody ever said it was simple or convenient to run a country where the press is free," wrote Marcano in a letter. "It does strengthen a country, though, when its people can discuss openly how their affairs are arranged and the events that shape their lives. … The people of Zimbabwe deserve that precious freedom, and journalists in that country should be free to report without the threat of reprisal."

Mugabe began his violent campaign against foreign journalists after his political party’s referendum was defeated last February — a first for the party. The defeat was followed by a June election in which Mugabe’s party won just 62 seats to the opposition’s 58. He has ruled the country since 1980, when Zimbabwe won independence from Great Britain.

"Unfortunately, the situation for journalists in Zimbabwe continues to deteriorate rapidly," Marcano said. "An assault on the people who provide information is an assault on the freedom of the Zimbabwe people, who depend on press reports for an unbiased review of what’s happening in their country. We call on President Mugabe to use his immense powers to immediately stop the oppression of journalists in his country."

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Feb. 15, 2001
His Excellency, Executive President Robert Mugabe
Office of the President
Private Bag 7700, Causeway
Harare
Zimbabwe

Dear President Mugabe:

It saddens and alarms me to read what has been happening to my fellow journalists in Zimbabwe. Surely the violence and intimidation that have been used against them have no place in a country embarked upon reform. As you work to build your country and secure its place among the nations of the world, I should think you would embrace the kind of free and vigorous press that the people of a self-governing nation expect and deserve.

Yet from all appearances, there are some within your government who have condoned — and even encouraged — the intimidation of independent writers and editors, as well as the violence employed against the Daily News and other news media.

On behalf of the largest and most inclusive association of journalists in the United States, I encourage you to renounce the use of violence against the media and to take immediate, visible steps to assure that the people who bombed the Daily News and those who threatened the Observer and other papers are caught and held accountable. The lack of such action already is being noticed around the world.

Mr. President, nobody ever said it was simple or convenient to run a country where the press is free. It does strengthen a country, though, when its people can discuss openly how their affairs are arranged and the events that shape their lives. And for hundreds of years now, patriots on every continent have claimed and defended their right to speak and publish freely. The people of Zimbabwe deserve that precious freedom, and journalists in that country should be free to report without the threat of reprisal.

Thank you very much for your attention to this matter, Mr. President.

Respectfully yours,

Ray Marcano
Board President
Society of Professional Journalists



Zimbabwe background — 19 Feb. 2001

Compiled from the sources below by John Hopkins, SPJ International Journalism Committee chairman:

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