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Media Suppression in Zimbabwe

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

With parliamentary elections scheduled in Zimbabwe March 31st, the government of President Robert Mugabe continues to suppress press freedom. The latest sign: the government-controlled Media and Information Commission has cancelled the license of the Weekly Times newspaper.

It is the fourth independent newspaper to be closed in Zimbabwe since 2002. The Daily News, the Daily News on Sunday, and the Tribune also have been silenced. One reason cited by the government for closing the Weekly Times is that it took a stand on political issues. "There is no basis for closing us down," says Godfrey Ncube, the Times’ owner. He says, "We feel it's a political move."

A report released in 2004 by Reporters Without Borders documents dozens of incidents of journalists in Zimbabwe being detained, attacked, and harassed. In early February of this year, 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. In January, President Mugabe signed a law requiring journalists to be accredited by the government, further restricting press freedom.

The pattern of shutting down newspapers and harassing journalists in Zimbabwe is part of a broader campaign to stifle political opposition. The government has not implemented regulations to provide all political parties "reasonable" access to the broadcast media. U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says that in Zimbabwe, there is "a climate where the opposition…fears for its safety":

"We have. . . .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 emphasized that the open environment for journalists, the open environment for the opposition to peacefully contest the elections needs to be ensured."

For the elections in Zimbabwe to be free and fair and for the government to get back on the path to legitimacy, the repression of the independent media must end and the opposition must be allowed unfettered access to the media.