The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on the Zimbabwean government to end its attacks and harassment of journalists and to stop police harassment of newspaper photographer Boldwill Hungwe.
"We are very upset by recent incidents that show a pattern of media repression and we urge the government to put an end to it," said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa Office. "Violent attacks on journalists and other media workers are having a chilling effect in Zimbabwe and sending a message that the government will use force to silence journalists that publish news it wants to keep out of public view."
Hungwe is a photographer with The Standard newspaper. In its Sunday edition, the paper published pictures of attorney Beatrice Mtetwa severely injured after she was abducted and tortured by police. The security forces broke up a gathering of lawyers in Harare the previous week. According to IFJ sources, after the photo was published the police called Hungwe and told him to turn himself in at the police station. The photographer has been in hiding since then.
Violence against journalists has been increasing in Zimbabwe. The dead body of cameraman Edward Chikombo was found in April, a few days after he was abducted from his home by armed men. Chikombo was suspected of having leaked the footage of the demonstrations and images of brutalised opposition activists which flooded international media organisations like the BBC and CNN. A few weeks before his death at least three other journalists were arrested and badly beaten in custody.
The IFJ is also calling on authorities to release Luke Tamborinyoka, who has been imprisoned for two months after a crackdown on the opposition.
Tamborinyoka, press officer of the opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), was arrested along with about 30 MDC members when police raided the party's headquarters on March 28. He was reportedly badly beaten and tortured while in custody and has been denied access to medical treatment and legal representation since his arrest. Tamborinyoka was the former news editor of newspaper The Daily News until it was banned in 2003 and he is a former Secretary General of the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists.
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 115 countries.