Bombing of independent press in Zimbabwe

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afrol.com, 29 January - The Daily News printing factory in Harare was bombed on Sunday morning, 28 January, causing extensive damage to the Z$100 million printing press and the building. On Tuesday a horde of Zanu PF supporters and war veterans had marched though the city centre in Harare shouting profanities and insults at The Daily News.

The bombers climbed the security wall, ordered a security guard to lie down at gunpoint, connected the bombs to the printing presses and detonated them. The machine was completely destroyed. Four quick explosions wrecked the machinery, electricity panels, and ripped a large part of the factory roof open, destroying window frames and shattering every windowpane. Several buildings at the complex and within the vicinity were also damaged.

None of the six guards on duty were hurt. James Mwanza, a security guard patrolling the property with his dog, said he saw a cream-coloured Mazda truck, registration number 336-518. It pulled up at the gate and the occupants said they were looking for a certain security guard. They said that his father had died and they wanted to inform him and give him some money. Mwanza said that he gave them the security guard's phone number and they phoned him - or pretended to - and said that they could not get through. They then left. Mwanza then carried on patrolling the premises and suddenly he was confronted by a man with a pistol who ordered him to lie down. 

There was also another man armed with a pistol. He was then ordered up and told to go through an opening in the security wall at the back of the factory building. They ordered him to run and not turn back.

At the scene of the bomb, copies of crudely written hand written notes purporting to be from "Authentic MDC" were found scattered. They read "This is the work of the Authentic Movement for Democratic Change (MDC Trade Unionist). This is a warning to the "Intellectuals" within the MDC who are flirting with the racist white minority. The Daily News as the mouthpiece of our party has done much damage our (sic) reputation by portraying us as puppets of the whites so causing us to lose the Marondera West and Bikita West by-electionsŠwe are Zimbabweans and true patriots. To portray us as puppets of the white minority and the British imperialists is folly of the highest order. Remove Michael Hogan from our security department and reinstate John Nkatazo".

Chief Executive of Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe, (ANZ) the company which publishes the Daily News, Muchadeyi Masunda, said discontinuing publication of newspaper was out of the question.

This is the second time The Daily News premises have been bombed in the last nine months. The first was on Saturday, 22 April 2000 when a powerful bomb exploded at about 9.15pm in at art gallery on the ground floor of the newspaper's offices in the city centre. The art gallery was situated directly below the office of the Editor-in-Chief, Geoff Nyarota.

On Tuesday 23 January, a horde of Zanu PF supporters and war veterans marched though the city centre in Harare shouting profanities and insults at The Daily News. They broke some windows of the newspaper and attacked one of the newspaper's journalists, Julius Zava. This was followed by attacks on The Daily News in other parts of Zimbabwe. The war veterans declared "war" of the newspaper and met on Saturday, 27 January, to decide how to deal with the newspaper and on Sunday, 28 January, the newspaper was bombed.

Professor Jonathan Moyo, the government spokesperson, told the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Cooperation (ZBC) on Saturday, 27 January, that the State would silence The Daily News as he alleged that it posed a security risk to the nation. The bombing came a few hours after the Minister's statement. However, yesterday (28 January), the Minister said the bombing was regrettable.

Other reactions to the bombing have been strong. The Zimbabwe Chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Zimbabwe) strongly has condemned "the attack on The Daily News and its Deputy News Editor, Julius Zava, by war veterans and ZANU-PF supporters on 23 January 2001 over the newspaper's coverage of the death of President Kabila, the DRC leader."

MISA-Zimbabwe says it "notes with concern that over the past year, journalists and other media workers (including newspaper vendors) and private newspapers have been subjected to harassment, threats and physical abuse. The aim of this harassment is obviously to intimidate media workers and to silence all those who hold different views from those of the government."

As an organisation dedicated to the defence of media freedom, MISA-Zimbabwe views the attack on the Daily News and its reporter, as a violation of their right to seek, receive and impart information. "Threatening and intimidating journalists is an affront to the fundamental right to media freedom. Journalists must be allowed to go about their duties without fear of recrimination," the institute says in a statement. 

Also the Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ), representing one of the most oppressed parts of the Zimbabwean society, states that it "is deeply shocked at the recent upsurge of intolerance being shown towards the press in Zimbabwe. GALZ will not condone violent retaliations in any process of debate no matter what reasonable excuses may be given or what benefits they may promise."

- The burning and destruction of the Herald and Sunday Mail newspapers is symptomatic of a lack of respect for difference of opinion and freedom of expression and is to be roundly condemned, the gay organisation says.

Source: Based on Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)

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