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Zimbabwe Charges 3 Journalists - 2002-06-17


Zimbabwe police say they are charging three journalists with public violence following their arrest Sunday at a meeting of opposition youth members. Two of the journalists from the independent Daily News newspaper say they were assaulted.

Police say supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change were causing public disturbances in central Harare before they were tear gassed and their meeting broken up.

But witnesses, including journalists, say they saw no violence until the police arrived. They say a video of the outdoor gathering shows the situation was peaceful until police arrived and began beating people and arresting them.

At least 10 MDC members detained in the Harare police station are injured, one of them seriously. A doctor who was able to see some of them says they must have been badly beaten to have received such extensive bruising.

MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai said Monday that more than 300 of his supporters are now in various prisons in Zimbabwe. One of them is a member of parliament, Munyaradzi Gwisai.

Mr. Tsvangirai condemned the violence against journalists and MDC supporters. He said that even though the opposition party received permission to hold rallies in several cities during the past two weeks, police broke them up. He said the ruling party is responsible for "escalating repression," and he said the actions by policemen would be judged one day.

Mr. Tsvangirai also said people in many rural areas of Zimbabwe are starving, and hunger problems also exist in the country's towns and cities.

The opposition leader and several private non-governmental groups blame President Robert Mugabe's policies for the desperate food shortage. He said Mr. Mugabe has destroyed Zimbabwe's commercial agriculture by permitting invasions of white-owned farms during the past two years.

Mr. Tsvangirai also said he believes Zimbabwe's government is considering banning the opposition MDC.

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