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Zimbabwe Intimidation

The following is an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government:

On March 31st, parliamentary elections will be held in Zimbabwe. But the fairness of the electoral process is in serious doubt.

Recent developments suggest that the government of Zimbabwe is continuing its campaign of constraining the independent media. Three journalists -- Angus Shaw of the Associated Press, Brian Latham of the Bloomberg financial news service, and Jaan Raath, a correspondent for a German news agency -- left Zimbabwe after police raided their offices. The raids are part of what Mr. Raath calls "Mugabe's onslaught against any voices of dissent in Zimbabwe."

In January, President Mugabe signed a law requiring journalists to be accredited by the government-controlled Media and Information Commission. The action tightened the so-called Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, passed in 2002. That act led to the closing of the Daily News, Zimbabwe's only independent daily newspaper.

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says that in Zimbabwe, there is a pattern "of shutting down newspapers, shutting down civil society, restrictions on civil society, [and] a climate where the opposition. . . .fears for its safety":

"We have indeed called attention to those problems there. We've also called attention to the parliamentary elections that are coming up on March 31st, and made clear, as I think others have, that there needs to be free and fair elections and emphasizing that the open environment for journalists, the open environment for the opposition to peacefully contest the elections needs to be ensured."

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice listed Zimbabwe along with Cuba, Burma, North Korea, Iran and Belarus, as one of the world's remaining outposts of tyranny. The U.S., said Ms. Rice, will stand with the people of Zimbabwe.