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Zimbabwean Journalist Honored - 2001-11-30

A Zimbabwean journalist is one of four winners of this year’s International Press Freedom Award, presented by the Committee to Protect Journalists, based in New York. Editor Geoff Nyarota of Zimbabwe’s Daily News newspaper shared the honor with journalists from Argentina, China, and Palestine.

Aroun Rashid Deen reported from New York that it was less than two years ago that Geoff Nyarota launched the Daily News. Today the paper is considered one of Zimbabwe's most influential independent publications, despite repeated attempts by the government of President Robert Mugabe to silence it. In his address at the awards ceremony, Mr. Nyarota talked about the difficulties facing foreign reporters in Zimbabwe. He said President Mugabe’s campaign against the media has targeted foreign journalists. Many of them have been deported. It is now next to impossible for foreign correspondents to be accredited to work in Zimbabwe.

Mr. Nyarota says Zimbabwean journalists are disappointed that the international community has not done more to stop President Mugabe’s attacks on the press. He says the war in Afghanistan may have diverted attention from the situation in Zimbabwe. Some foreign media have withdrawn their reporters from the country; others have had their reporters kicked out. Mr. Nyarota says that unlike the deported correspondents, local journalists have no choice but to stay and fight. He says local journalists wait like sheep to be slaughtered, for the day when the police pay them a nocturnal visit, or the peace of their newsroom is shattered by another bomb. Geoff Nyarota dedicated his award to his family and his staff at the Daily News. He says the paper’s employees now need more than simple writing skills for day-to-day survival. Mr. Nyarota says they need courage and determination. They need to stand up to the continuous intimidation and harassment by those determined to see that the paper does not tell it like it is. “Tell it like it is” is the motto of the Daily News. Speaking to reporters after the awards ceremony, the Africa coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, Yves Sorokobi, recalled that the offices of The Daily News have been bombed twice. He says Mr. Nyata was arrested about 10 times within six months and has had what he calls many frivolous charges brought against him. He told the audience, “All this concerted harassment has never deterred him from doing what he is doing and we wanted to contribute to his effort to keep up with a despotic regime; that is Mr. Mugabe’s.”

Geoff Nyarota has also been chosen to receive the 2002 Golden Pen of Freedom Award awarded by the Paris-based World Association of Newspapers. The award will be presented in Belgium on May 27th at the opening ceremony of the association’s annual congress. The organization’s spokesman says it will be going to one of Africa’s most prominent advocates of press freedom.