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6/17/04 - ZIMBABWE NEWSPAPER - 2004-06-17

The government of Zimbabwe has shut down The Tribune, an independent weekly newspaper. The newspaper’s license has been suspended for one year. The Tribune has been published since 2002 and has reported on government corruption.

President Robert Mugabe’s regime closed down the Tribune on a technicality. Zimbabwe’s Media and Information Commission says that Kindness Paradza, the publisher, failed to notify the government of ownership and name changes. But Mr. Paradza says he complied with all requirements:

“Those allegations are not valid, in our opinion, because they were meant just as compliance, and this is what we did. We have complied with whatever they [the Media and Information Commission] wanted us to do.”

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says that the U.S. condemns the Mugabe regime’s shutdown of the Tribune:

“The action is the latest in a series of assaults on press freedom and on access to independent information in Zimbabwe. It follows the government’s attempts to tighten controls on the internet use, last year’s forced closure of The Independent Daily News, and the ongoing intimidation, harassment, and prosecution of independent journalists.”

Four directors of The Daily News, another banned newspaper in Zimbabwe, are now on trial for allegedly publishing without a license. Mr. Boucher says that the U.S. notes with dismay Zimbabwe’s “repressive media control laws”:

“The Media and Information Commission is mandated to enhance the Zimbabwean people’s access to information. However, it seems clearly intent on using the country’s draconian media legislation as a political tool to silence voices that are raising legitimate concerns about the Zimbabwean government’s corruption, human rights violations, economic mismanagement, and abuse of democratic institutions and the rule of law.”

Zimbabwe is in crisis. The economy has collapsed, and government mismanagement has led to the threat of widespread famine. Eighty percent of adults are unemployed. Many brave Zimbabweans have spoken out and they are being silenced. Their struggle is not about foreign values or foreign interest. It is about their dream of a Zimbabwe that reflects the highest ideals of both traditional and modern Africa.