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VOA Denounces Arrest Of Reporter in Zimbabwe - 2002-03-28

The Voice of America has denounced the arrest in Zimbabwe of one of its freelance reporters for allegedly endangering public safety.

Robert Reilly (VOA photo - L. Lindberg) VOA Director Robert Reilly says there is no basis for the accusations of spreading false information and inciting violence against Peta Thornycroft. He called her arrest a "cynical attack" against freedom of the press in Zimbabwe.

Ms. Thornycroft, who has not yet been formally charged, was jailed Wednesday in eastern Zimbabwe while investigating reports of violence against opposition activists following Zimbabwe's controversial elections. At the time she was working for several news organizations, including VOA and London's Daily Telegraph, which has also denounced the allegations against her.

International press freedom groups have strongly condemned Ms. Thornycroft's arrest and urged Mr. Mugabe's government to release her immediately and unconditionally.

The Paris-based group Reporters Without Borders is urging the European Union and the United States to impose harsher sanctions on Zimbabwe.

The European Union and the United States imposed a travel ban on President Mugabe and his top officials after concluding the presidential election in Zimbabwe was not free and fair.

Zimbabwean authorities have moved the 57-year-old reporter from Chimanimani, near the border with Mozambique, to the regional capital of Mutare Thursday, about 300 kilometers east of Harare. Ms. Thornycroft's lawyer visited her briefly before the move to Mutare and says he found her in good spirits.

The Zimbabwean government has not commented on the matter.

Ms. Thornycroft is a British-born Zimbabwean citizen who resides in South Africa. She is the first journalist arrested under Zimbabwe's restrictive new security law.