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2 Zimbabwean Journalists Arrested - 2001-11-08

Police in Zimbabwe have detained the editor of a privately owned daily newspaper and a former colleague. The two have not been officially charged.

Geoff Nyarota, editor of the Daily News in Harare, and Wilf Mbanga, who left the newspaper more than a year ago, were arrested early Thursday morning at their homes and taken to the city's main police station.

Lawyers for the two men say the detentions follow allegations by the Zimbabwe government that the company that owns the newspaper is operating illegally. Mr. Nyarota and Mr. Mbanga were the main shareholders and directors when the parent company was set up five years ago and Mr. Mbanga has kept a small shareholding.

Mutch Masunda, chief executive of the Daily News, describes the arrests and allegations as "absurd."

A Zimbabwe press watchdog, the Media Monitoring Project, says the government wants to close down the Daily News, the biggest selling daily in Zimbabwe, because it publishes stories detailing government corruption, human rights abuses and disregard of the rule of law.

Earlier this year, Mr. Nyarota and four colleagues were detained on allegations of publishing defamatory stories about the government. They were released on the orders of a High Court judge, who said they had not committed any offence.

In the last three years, at least a dozen journalists working for opposition or privately owned newspapers in Zimbabwe have been arrested. Two were tortured by the army following an article on a possible military coup.

Human rights and media watchdog groups accuse President Robert Mugabe of wanting to close down all privately owned and opposition newspapers in the country.

Opposition politicians say Mr. Mugabe is determined to stamp out all opposition before presidential elections next year.