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Cablegate: Independent Journalists Face Trial Over

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

UNCLAS HARARE 001117

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/PD (COX AND ROBERTSON), AF/S (KRAFT AND
SCHLACHTER), AF/RA (DIPALMA), INR/R/MR

NSC FOR JENDAYI FRAZER

LONDON FOR GURNEY

PARIS FOR BISA WILLIAMS

NAIROBI FOR PFLAUMER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ZI PREL PHUM
SUBJECT: INDEPENDENT JOURNALISTS FACE TRIAL OVER
"BEHEADING" STORY

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED -- NOT FOR INTERNET POSTING

1. (U) A magistrate in Harare has ruled that two of the
three journalists arrested last week for violating the
Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA)
must stand trial. American citizen Andrew Meldrum, local
correspondent for the "Guardian," and "Daily News" reporter
Lloyd Mudiwa are free on what amounts to a personal
recognizance bond (no bail), but will have to return to
court on May 22. Mudiwa is accused of writing a false
story about a woman allegedly beheaded by ruling party
supporters. Meldrum is charged with repeating the story in
the "Guardian." Both acts are illegal under Section 80 (1)
b of the AIPPA. The magistrate dismissed similar charges
against another "Daily News" reporter, Colin Chiwanza.

2. (U) In a related development, on May 7 "Daily News"
columnist Pius Wakatama was detained and questioned by
police in connection with an opinion piece he wrote about
the alleged beheading. Wakatama was "warned and cautioned"
and released on his own recognizance. He will likely have
to appear in court later this month on charges of violating
AIPPA.

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3. (U) One of the laws being used against journalists,
AIPPA (the other is the Public Order and Security Act --
POSA), faces a legal challenge. Jan Raath (correspondent
for Times Group of Newspapers of London, South Press
Association and Newsweek), Andrew Meldrum (The Guardian)
and Peta Thornycroft (Daily Telegraph) have filed a suit
that seeks to have certain sections of the AIPPA declared
unconstitutional.

4. (SBU) Comment: This flurry of legal activity is
symptomatic of the continuing pressure the Government of
Zimbabwe is bringing to bear against the privately owned
and international media. The draconian AIPPA and POSA give
the GoZ a remarkably broad array of options for harassing
and intimidating the media. In interviews and opinion
pieces over the May 3-5 weekend, Minister Moyo made clear
his attitude toward independent journalists and his
intention to bring them into conformity with his view of
the appropriate role of the media. In a television
interview, Minister Moyo said that the people arrested in
connection with the "beheading" story were "criminals," not
journalists. He went on to say that the government's
action in this case offered proof that Zimbabwe is
determined to apply the rule of law "even to Americans."

5. (SBU) Comment continued: Government-owned May 3-5
weekend newspapers were full of news reports and opinion
pieces supporting Minister Moyo's Orwellian view of press
freedom. News articles about police investigations into
"false" stories were joined by opinion pieces calling for
the ban of independent newspapers. If we were more
cynical, we would suspect Minister Moyo of colluding with
the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) to
provide concrete evidence of CPJ's May 3 assessment that
Zimbabwe is one of the world's 10 worst places to be a
journalist. End comment.

SULLIVAN

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