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Zimbabwe Editor and Three Others Arrested - 2001-08-15

The editor of Zimbabwe's only independent daily newspaper and three of the paper's staff members have been arrested. Their lawyers say the four are facing charges for their role in a report that said police vehicles have been used in the looting of white-owned commercial farms.

The editor of the Daily News, Geoff Nyarota, and Bill Saidi, Sam Muravi, and John Gambanga were arrested Wednesday. Lawyers for the journalists say the four are accused of publishing false information or rumors that discredit the military.

In a front-page report Tuesday, the Daily News quoted farmers from Chinhoyi in northern Zimbabwe as saying police vehicles had been used to carry possessions from their homesteads.

At least 40 homesteads have been looted in the area and more than 100 farm owners and their families have fled. More than 20 white farmers are in jail after clashes with land invaders.

The law under which the journalists are being charged, the Law and Order Maintenance Act, was inherited from the white-ruled government of Rhodesia. It has in the past been used against two journalists from a Sunday newspaper who wrote a report in 1999 about a possible military coup. Legal charges were subsequently dropped against the journalists, who were tortured by military police after the report was published.

The Daily News has been accused by government officials of working with Western countries to topple the Zimbabwe government. Earlier this year, the newspaper's printing plant was destroyed by a bomb.

Shortly after the arrests of the Daily News journalists, Zimbabwe's government said the army will be used to enforce seizures of white-owned farms. Agriculture minister Joseph Made told state media that soldiers will be used to stake out plots for poor people on the farms. Mr. Made says the involvement of soldiers will lead to what he calls "a general mood of law and order."

Unrest continues on farms in Zimbabwe, with another 200 farm workers and their families at Wedza, 80 kilometers east of Harare, being forced out of their homes by militants who support President Robert Mugabe.