Threat To Press Freedom As Newsday Offices Are Raided

“Unknown criminals broke into the offices of News-Day in Harare on Monday night and stole a laptop belonging to the paper’s editor, Brian Mangwende, hard-drives and other components from computers used by senior editorial staff at the country’s fastest growing independent daily. The stolen drives contained vital information and data,” Newsday said.

Mangwende writes a hard-hitting column titled: From the Editor’s Bottom Drawer.

Mangwende said the raid was a serious blow on press freedom coming as it did a few days before World Press Freedom Day commemorations on 3 May 2011. “We will not be deterred by these criminals who are not merely targeting the property of Newsday, but freedom of the media. “

Newsday is owned by media mogul, Trevor Ncube, the owner of Alpha Media Holdings the publishers of the Independent, Standard and the South African Mail and Guardian newspapers. Alpha Media Holdings (AMH) chief executive officer Raphael Khumalo said the break-in and theft was aimed at creating a negative psychological effect on the papers’ staffers.

He said he hoped the action will be condemned as the world celebrates press freedom day next week. “That does not put Zimbabwe in a good light. It is going to be seen as a fight against the independence of the media.”

He, however, commended the swift response from the police after they reported the break-in and theft.

In a statement to the media, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) – Zimbabwe urged the police to be thorough in their investigations and bring the culprits to book.

“It should send a strong message to would-be other criminals of similar intent that Zimbabwe is more than ready to defend press freedom.

“This incident should be given the seriousness it deserves and should not linger unresolved considering the deafening silence on what became of the investigations into the bombings of The Daily News offices and printing press in 2000 and 2001 respectively. No one has been arrested for the Daily News bombings since then,” read part of the MISA-Zimbabwe statement.

Meanwhile, police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri has blasted the Daily News newspaper for leading with a headline titled “31 years of hell” on the Independence Day more than a week ago.
The state controlled Herald newspaper said Chihuri blasted the Daily News while addressing the police recruits who visited shrines where hundreds of war fighters and ordinary people were buried in mass graves in places like Chimoio, Mozambique. The police chief said the daily paper ‘insulted’ the nation by writing the story saying the liberation war which ended in 1979 was still fresh in people’s minds.
“Somebody writes that, ’31 years of hell’. Have you been in hell and know what it is? The sad memories (of the liberation struggle) are still fresh in our minds and we should never forget that gallant sons and daughters of this country lost their lives,” Chihuri was quoted by the Herald as saying.
Chihuri, a former combatant has been commanding that police recruits visit the shrines or mass graves during their training, a move that has been described as meant to show his loyalty and support to Zanu (PF) and President Robert Mugabe, analysts have said.