The U.S. State Department is condemning the bombing of an independent broadcaster in Zimbabwe, while suggesting that the government of President Robert Mugabe may have been behind the attack.
No one was injured in the attack. But the explosion and fire destroyed the private Voice of the People Radio Station, one of only two independent broadcasters still in operation in Zimbabwe in the face of the government's restrictive press laws.
At a State Department briefing, spokesman Richard Boucher said the United States "strongly condemns" the attack, which he said came amid a background of state repression of the independent media and other critics of the Mugabe government.
"Responsibility for the bombing has not yet been determined," he said. "However, I have to say, it occurs in the context of the Zimbabwe government's assault on the rule of law, and repression of the civil society, including regular harassment and intimidation of the independent media. Zimbabwean police had raided the Voice of the People offices in July 2002. They've seized files. They've seized audio CD's, which were returned several days before the bombing occurred. The government of Zimbabwe has a responsibility to investigate the bombing, and to bring to justice those who are responsible for it."
Mr. Boucher said the United States calls on the Zimbabwe government more broadly to restore the rule of law, and respect freedom of the press.
The Voice of the People had produced its news locally, but transmitted it from the Netherlands, via shortwave radio, to avoid government restrictions on local broadcasts.
Zimbabwe's information minister, Jonathan Moyo, had described the station as part of an international conspiracy against Zimbabwe.
The Bush administration has been a harsh critic of the Mugabe government for its actions against independent journalists, for what were described here as "fundamentally flawed" elections in March, and, more recently, for the confiscation of white-owned commercial farms, which U.S. officials say have exacerbated a regional food crisis.