Two blows to the independent media


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Former Information Minister Jonathan Moyo at one time mooted amending the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act to require that publishers of Zimbabwean newspapers should reside in the country.

His main targets appeared to be Trevor Ncube publisher of the Zimbabwe Independent and the Standard and Strive Masiyiwa chairman of the company that published the Daily News after the two had settled in South Africa.

Moyo was in constant battles with the privately owned newspapers because of their criticism of the government.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 04HARARE61, TWO FURTHER BLOWS TO INDEPENDENT MEDIA IN ZIMBABWE

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

04HARARE61

2004-01-12 14:38

2011-08-30 01:44

UNCLASSIFIED

Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000061

 

SIPDIS

 

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER, D. TEITELBAUM

LONDON FOR C. GURNEY

PARIS FOR C. NEARY

NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: PGOV PHUM ZI

SUBJECT: TWO FURTHER BLOWS TO INDEPENDENT MEDIA IN ZIMBABWE

 

REF: 2003 HARARE 2454 AND PREVIOUS

 

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: On January 10, police arrested Zimbabwe

Independent Editor Iden Wetherell and two other senior staff

members after months of articles highly critical of the GOZ.

On January 9, despite another court ruling in its favor

ordering police to vacate the premises of The Daily News,

police refused and again prevented staffers from accessing

publishing facilities. END SUMMARY.

 

Editor of Independent Weekly Arrested

————————————-

 

2. (SBU) On January 10, police arrested the Editor of the

weekly Zimbabwe Independent (ZI), Iden Wetherell, as well as

News Editor Vincent Kahiya, and Chief Reporter Dumisani

Muleya of the same paper. Police alleged that the three were

guilty of criminal defamation for publishing an article that

the State perceived to be false. The article, published on

January 9, reported that President Mugabe had commandeered an

Air Zimbabwe plane for two legs of his current vacation in

the Far East.

 

3. (SBU) According to ZI reporter Blessing Zulu, the three

had not been mistreated and had been allowed access to

lawyers. They were still in police custody and signing

statements on January 12, and were due to appear at

Magistrate’s Court later that day.

 

4. (SBU) For the past few months ZI has published “Editor’s

Memos” in which Wetherell has been highly critical of the GOZ

for everything from Zimbabwe’s citizenship laws to ruinous

economic polices. True to form, the paper has also carried

stories by staff reporters critical of GOZ Ministers

including Minister of Information Jonathan Moyo who exercises

authority over all media outlets in Zimbabwe. In response

Moyo has published several articles in The Herald, mostly

under the penname Nathaniel Maneru attacking Wetherell.

 

5. (SBU) In articles published recently in The Herald, Moyo

has threatened to amend the Access to Information and

Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) to require publishers of

Zimbabwean newspapers to reside in Zimbabwe, a not so veiled

move against Trevor Ncube, publisher of both the Independent

and the Standard, both weeklies, and Strive Masiyiwa,

publisher of The Daily News. Masiyiwa and Ncube, who also

publishes the Mail and Guardian in South Africa, are

Zimbabweans resident in Johannesburg.

 

Police Prevent The Daily News from Re-Opening

———————————————

 

5. (SBU) On January 9, High Court Justice Tendai Uchena

issued an order granting The Daily News (TDN) the right to

publish and ordering police, who have been present on the

premises of TDN offices and publishing facilities since the

newspaper was shuttered in September 2003, to vacate those

premises and not interfere with the operations of Associated

Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ, the parent company of TDN). TDN

staff members said police on January 9 allowed them to enter

TDN offices where they prepared an issue of the paper.

However, police physically prevented all staff members from

accessing TDN printing facilities (at another location), and

no issue was printed. According to TDN CEO Samuel Sipepa

Nkomo, the High Court order included specific instructions to

police, and was served to Southerton Police Station on

January 9. Police at Southerton reportedly acknowledged

receiving the instructions, but refused to remove officers at

TDN facilities without clearance from their superiors.

 

6. (U) In a January 12 conversation with the Ambassador,

Nkomo said that the Media and Information Commission (MIC)

lawyer acknowledged to Judge Uchena that the police position

was indefensible, and that police had “misconducted

themselves”. Nkomo said TDN staff had an 8-page edition of

the paper ready to go to the presses.

 

7. (U) Police served a notice of appeal by the Media and

Information Commission on Nkomo on January 10.

 

8. (SBU) Nkomo said TDN lawyers were planning to file

contempt of code applications against police on January 13

for failing to comply with the High Court order, and against

Minister Moyo and a MIC lawyer for making public statements

prior to January 9 about the then pending judicial decision.

Comment:

——–

 

9. (SBU) Given the highly critical tone of recent articles

written by, or at least published under Wetherell’s

editorship, we do not find it surprising that the GOZ, in

this case very likely under Moyo’s orders, decided to take

action against Wetherell. At the time of writing, Wetherell

had not yet appeared in court so the charges and hence

implications for him and for the paper’s continued ability to

publish are unclear. As Ncube also publishes the South

African Mail and Guardian, we would expect the troubles of

the Independent to get some attention in South Africa,

possibly in the region as well.

 

10. (SBU) With yet another court victory under TDN’s belt,

this latest move by police and the GOZ to continue shuttering

TDN brings into ever shaper focus the GOZ’s headstrong intent

to prevent the paper from re-opening despite the lack of

legal justification.

SULLIVAN

(30 VIEWS)

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The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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