Editor, 3 staffers of Zimbabwe's only independent daily newspaper arrested
By The Associated Press
|Geoffrey Nyarota, editor of Zimbabwe's independent newspaper, The Daily News, in April 2000.
HARARE, Zimbabwe Police arrested the chief editor of Zimbabwe's only independent daily and three members of his staff today over a report of alleged police complicity in the looting of white-owned farms, the newspaper's owners said.
Detectives arrested Geoffrey Nyarota, 50, editor of The Daily News, at his home and drove him to the main Harare police station, Associated Newspapers chief executive Muchadeyi Masunda said.
Masunda said deputy editor Bill Saidi, news editor John Gambanga and reporter Sam Munyavi were arrested later today.
All four were charged under a law that prohibits publishing a rumor or a false report likely to cause alarm by discrediting the police or military, according to their lawyer, Lawrence Chibwe. They were fingerprinted and made statements to the police.
Such charges under the sweeping Law and Order Maintenance Act carry a penalty of up to seven years in prison.
On its front page yesterday, The Daily News alleged police vehicles were used by ruling party militants in what it called "well orchestrated acts of lawlessness" in the looting of white-owned farms.
The report described a week of violence in the Chinhoyi corn and tobacco district, 70 miles northwest of Harare, in which at least 30 homesteads were looted and white families were evacuated from about 100 farms.
Since March 2000, ruling party militants led by veterans of the independence war that ended white rule in 1980 have occupied more than 1,700 farms. The often-violent occupations, which are backed by the government of President Robert Mugabe, have been ruled illegal by Zimbabwe's Supreme Court and criticized by many western nations.
Today's arrests came amid a crackdown on the government's critics. In recent months, three foreign journalists have been forced to leave the country, and independent Zimbabwean journalists have been threatened by ruling party militants.
In April, Nyarota and two of his reporters were questioned and charged with defaming Mugabe.
Last year, the newspaper linked Mugabe and Parliament Speaker Emmerson Mnangagwa to an alleged scheme to award contracts for a new international airport to favored politicians, ruling party supporters and their business associates.
In January, The Daily News' printing presses were bombed after the government called the paper an opposition mouthpiece. No arrests have been made. The newspaper has put out smaller daily editions with a reduced print run, using private printers.
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